‘VOTING shambles’ was a description of voter experience in the municipal elections in Orihuela in May earlier this year.
There was indignation that deliberate confusion and even manipulation of voting districts had been used by members of the previous government to frustrate voters in Orihuela Costa. Bob Houliston from CLARO said: “At the time of the last local elections, changes were made to the location of polling stations, causing confusion and obliging some voters, for example those living in Playa Flamenca, to travel up to six kilometres to vote in the little known and badly signposted Reading Point.
This contributed to a low level of voter participation in Orihuela Costa. These practices were undemocratic and obstructed the exercise of the right to vote of hundreds of Orihuela Costa residents and were certainly sufficient to deny CLARO continued representation on the council.”
The practices were denounced by CLARO at the time and were fully documented in a complaint made to the new mayor of Orihuela. He has now replied to the president of CLARO stating that after consulting the electoral authorities (Censo Electoral), it has been confirmed that the town hall is able to increase the number of polling stations to reduce the distances voters have to travel to vote, provided that the polling stations are located in premises owned by the town hall to ensure that they are not changed from one election to another which it is acknowledged causes confusion.
The mayor has promised to introduce changes which will ensure compliance with the principles laid down by the electoral authorities when they have publicly owned premises. Bob said: “CLARO welcomes this commitment by the new Popular Party Mayor of Orihuela. The indignation felt after the local elections in May was justified. It should be possible to introduce these changes and facilitate voting by Spanish citizens as soon as the national elections to be held in December. Public premises exist, prominently and conveniently located in schools or the municipal sports centre, for example, to ensure that voters do not have to travel unreasonable distances.”
He added: “The mayor’s commitment should also ensure that the out of date Spanish law which does not include the number of non-Spanish EU voters in the calculation of the number of polling stations created, is not applied again to reduce the number of polling stations in Orihuela Costa and to obstruct the democratic rights of residents to vote to defend their interests in determining the composition of the municipal government.”