Friday, September 29

Heat, vacations and the procedures for voting by mail: the risks for participation of calling elections in July

The advancement of the general elections to July 23, 2023 means that the elections will be held in special circumstances. The date chosen by the President of the Government Pedro Sánchez may have dissuasive effects for participation. It is going to be a very hot month – July 2022 was the warmest on record by the AEMET with an average of two degrees above the historical average. There will be a lot of people away from your place of residence because it is your summer vacation period. Vote-by-mail procedures are lengthened so that they can step on the weeks of payroll and force you to be in the area of ​​residence to receive the necessary documentation to vote in advance.

Why Sánchez calls elections: mobilize the left from the shock


Previous cases: Galicia and Euskadi, opposite paths

Recently there were two examples of elections called in the middle of July. Galicia and the Basque Country voted on July 12, 2020 –shortly after the confinement due to the COVID pandemic– since their ordinary elections in April were postponed due to the health emergency.

They behaved antagonistically: in Galicia, participation was 58.4%. It was a higher figure than in the two previous calls of 2012 and 2016. In Euskadi the participation on July 12, 2020 was 50.78%, the lowest registered since 1980. In 2016 it was 60%, in 2012 it was 63 %.

A month of extreme heat

The average temperature in July in Spain is 22.9 ºC. But that average is obtained with the maximum and minimum throughout the days of the month and also, it varies a lot depending on the area that is looked at. The context of climate change is making Spanish summers not only longer but also more intense in terms of high temperatures.

In the south, in Andalusia, the average daytime temperature in the community in July exceeds 33ºC, but there are cities like Seville and Córdoba where the maximum average is 36ºC, in Jaén and Granada 34ºC and Huelva 32ºC.

Just on July 23, 1995, Seville and Córdoba set a temperature record with 46ºC and 48ºC – beaten two decades later. The polling stations in these localities are usually located inside public schools. Little by little, the schools have been air conditioned, but there are still some without air conditioning. In fact, in heat waves, fathers and mothers from Córdoba go to pick up the students at 12:00, to avoid heat stroke. But there are public schools in large areas of Spain, especially inland, that are not air-conditioned

With these data, the Andalusian electoral law excludes the call for regional elections from July 1 to August 31. The weather, and the coincidence with the holidays were among the causes of said change. The decision dates back to 1994, when the 1986 Law was reformed, during the mandate of Manuel Chaves (PSOE) and it was agreed that “the Call Decree will set the date of the vote, which may not be between July 1 to August 31”.

In Castilla-La Mancha, the average maximum is around 32 ºC with Albacete at 33.7ºC, Toledo 33.6ºC and Ciudad Real at 30.7ºC. Cuenca and Guadalajara have softer average records. In Extremadura, the average maximum is around 34ºC.

Holidays for many people

Holding an election in the fourth week of July implies placing the date in the middle of the summer holiday season in Spain. July is the second month of vacation for residents, according to the National Statistics Institute.

In fact, last year 19 million displacements of residents were registered in that month – compared to 23 million in August and 14 million in September. There are many millions of voters whose summer vacation period is in full swing. 90% of these displacements were made within the country. There were more than eight million whose destination was a hotel or some other type of commercial accommodation.

If I’m away, I vote by mail: the deadlines

Not being in the place of residence during an election does not unequivocally imply being in the position of either voting or vacation. Voting by mail allows ballots to be deposited in advance. However, the legal deadlines for carrying out the procedures are extended in such a way that it is very possible that they overlap to a greater or lesser extent with the month of July.

The regulations say that the request can be made from the day the elections are called: May 30. “The voter will request the corresponding Delegation from the date of the call and until the tenth day before the vote,” says the rule. The process is done at any Post Office that has to submit the application to the Electoral Census in three days.

That would leave a lot of room, but Correos can only send the documentation of envelopes, ballots, etc. to applicants from the 34th day after the call, which means that that day is already June 2. The bad thing is that this documentation can arrive at the address indicated by the applicant –or if not at the one that appears in the Census– until the sixth day before the elections.

And that period does enter fully into July since the date set would be the 17th of that month. The voter can send his vote by certified mail “in any case before the third day prior to the celebration of the election.” In this case: July 19.