Spain Explained

Voting in Spain: How can you vote as an expat?

In this article we talk about the process of voting in Spain: how the voting works, how you can register to vote, how you can vote and what happens after the voting.

Spanish government

The government in Spain is arranged according to four tiers:

  • National – the elected government of the country
  • Regional – the government elected to run the autonomous community
  • Provincial – the government elected to run the province
  • Municipal – the councillors elected locally to run the town

In this article we will focus on the last one.

New Call-to-action

Pre-election campaign

The process of campaigning is tightly controlled in Spain. This includes the amount of free municipal space that is provided for each political party to advertise their candidates. You will see pictures of councillors being plastered on long, specially erected billboards. The amount of space that each candidate has is determined by the number of councillors they had at the previous election.

If you are registered to vote, you will be sent packs of information by each political party. This will include details of manifestos and the list of councillors which you can bring with you to put in the ballot box. These lists will also be available on the day and consist of up to 25 councillors and 3 substitutes . Those councillors at the top of the list will secure their places first and those at the bottom may not qualify for a place even though their party does well in the election.

The campaign for the local elections follows an agreed itinerary with each political party selecting where and how they wish to broadcast their message. A number of venues are usually chosen along with radio broadcasts.

All campaigning must stop the day before the voting begins and this rule is strictly enforced.

Voting in Spain: How to register?

  • People who voted at the last local elections should automatical y be registered to vote and receive their voting slip through the post.
  • If you haven’t voted before and are eligible then you may already have received a notification to complete and return. If not, then you may need to go to your local statistics and census office where you can pick up a form and register.

You will need to be registered on the padrón to be able to participate in the voting process in Spain. This is the town’s local census and registration also means that you can benefit from some local services such as schools, bus services and the local libraries. You must be over 18 and usually need to provide:

  • Proof of where you are living (Title Deed, nota simple or copy of rental contract)
  • A valid passport
  • Residency card or certificate
  • Where parents are separated or divorced, proof that you have custody of the child

However, each town varies and you should check what the local requirements are.

How to vote in Spain

The voting in Spain takes place in schools and always on a Sunday. Each polling station is manned by a president and two secretaries to oversee the ballot. They are also assisted by volunteers who check that the process follows the agreed procedure. These volunteers represent each of the political parties.

The polling stations are open from 9am until 8.00pm and if you are voting you must take with you your voting slip and some photo ID such as a passport or Spanish driving licence. Your name is then checked against a list and you choose which list of councillors you place in the ballot box.

Remember that in Spain you vote for the political party and not individual councillors. Each party has their own ‘paper’ which includes a list of their candidates.

There are two ballot boxes, one white and one orange. You place the paper of the party you’re voting for in an envelope and into the white ballot box. The white one is for the local elections and the orange one for the regional election of councillors to run the autonomous community. You must not mark your paper.

New Call-to-action

Afterwards the voting

At the end of the night the papers are counted and taken to the juzgado (court) where it is officially registered that the ballot has been conducted properly and that these are the results.

Councillors for each political party win their seat according to the number of votes cast for their party. This means that town halls and regional councils can find that there is no party with a clear majority and alliances between political parties are sometimes needed.

Whatever the outcome of the general election, the local councillors who are chosen can make a significant difference to the town and how it is run. If you are eligible to vote then it is important to check out the different manifestos and consider your decision carefully.

Whatever the outcome, it will be another four years before the chance for change comes again.

See all

It might be of your interest...

Leave a comment

1 comment

Sonia Kleyman

6 May, 2023 3:55 pm

Thank you for the clear explanation of what happens INSIDE the voting station.