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108,851 catalans abroad will be able to vote on november 1st

On 1st November, over 5.3 million Catalans will be asked to choose a new Parliament, from which the future government will emerge. And there will be ballot boxes not only in Catalonia but also in many other countries around the world: 108,851 residents abroad will also be entitled to vote.

France, Argentina and Andorra are the countries with the highest numbers of absent residents, which is the term used for Catalan citizens who live abroad and have registered themselves accordingly with the Consulate. Before leaving, most of these Catalans lived in the province of Barcelona. The other provinces of origin are, in descending order by number, Lleida, Tarragona and Girona.

Participation rates among these people living outside Catalonia have been growing compared with the last two parliamentary elections. In 1999, 15,510 residents abroad voted, i.e. 17.78%. In 2003, the figure was 18,639, which is 18.56%. Most of these voters voted by registered post.

Though far from home, everyone who still has links with Catalonia can vote just like any other citizen, with full rights; the only difference, of course, is the procedure for voting. The electoral register office (Oficina del Cens Electoral or OCE) produces the required electoral documentation at least three weeks before voting day. When it comes to sending out the documents, this Office consults the Electoral Roll of Absent Residents Abroad (Cens Electoral de Residents Absents a l'Estranger - CERA). People must be registered in order to be able to vote. Getting yourself registered is simple: all that is required is registration with the Consulate. If an elector is uncertain about being on the CERA Register, this can be checked at the relevant Consulate up to just over a month before the election.

Once the voter has decided who to vote for, the ballot paper is sealed in the voting envelope the voter will have received along with his or her certificate of registration. The vote is then processed by the provincial electoral board. When the time comes to send in their votes, voters living abroad can send them in by registered post or hand them in directly to the Consulate. In these forthcoming elections, the deadline for taking envelopes to the post office is 31st October, while the deadline for voting via the Consulate is 25th October.

For greater safety, and with a view to encouraging these residents to take part, 23,000 informative leaflets have been sent out, by email and by post, to voters on the Electoral Roll of Absent Residents (CERA) who are members of Catalan Communities Abroad. Over a thousand leaflets have also been sent out to various NGOs operating abroad. Moreover, to provide fuller information, the Governance and Public Administration Department of the Generalitat has launched an election information system combining online systems with telephone links and direct personal attention. The new website (www.parlament2006.cat ), which can be reached from the various countries, is an example of this, though you can also call the 012 information number using the international version of the number: 00 34 902 400 012. The Catalan Communities have also volunteered to attend to enquiries made by telephone or in person.

The Catalonia News Magazine
www.catalonianews.cat


Date: 09/10/2006

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