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Election glossary


Voters who do not vote in an election. It can be given as an absolute or percentage figure. The absolute figures for abstention and turnout equal the electoral roll. The total percentage figure is obviously 100 since they are complementary concepts.


The person appointed by the representative of a list to represent it at election events and operations. In particular they monitor voting and counting. They are not a member of the polling station committee and vote at the one for which they are registered. They can visit any polling station committee.

Announcement of provisional results

Operation to announce the provisional results of the count. It can be done on television, online, by text, etc.

Backup processing centre (CPB)

Facility in addition to the data processing centre located in a separate building to continue counting the results in case of evacuation of the main building.

Ballot paper

Printed slip used for voting. For the Senate it is a single ballot paper which includes all the candidates and the voter has to choose three at most. In other elections they have to choose the ballot paper for the list they want to vote for, which includes the acronym, name of the list and the list of candidates for the constituency.

Ballots for lists

Ballots validly cast for any of the electoral lists that have been announced. The relationship between the various categories for classifying ballots is as follows: Total ballots = valid ballots + spoilt ballots. Valid ballots = blank ballots + ballots for lists.

Blank ballots

Ballots cast in envelopes without a ballot paper and ballots cast for a list that has been formally withdrawn. In Senate elections ballot papers with no preference expressed for any candidate are blank ballots. Ballots cast for lists that have been withdrawn in the course of the process are also blank ballots. Blank ballots are part of valid ballots (which is significant when it comes to calculating the percentages).


Enclosed place in the polling station where voters can put their ballot paper in the envelope and which ensures their vote is secret.


Person on an electoral list once it has been announced by the relevant electoral commission. Depending on the type of election they may be candidates to be members and senators of the Spanish Lower House and Senate respectively, members of the legislative assemblies of the regions or the European Parliament, general members of the General Council of Aran and councillors on local councils.


Political formation set up to present lists for a particular election and consisting of political parties and/or federations of parties.


Geographical area encompassing all the voters whose votes decide the distribution of seats. In European elections it is national; in general elections it is the province; in regional elections it is the province (except on island regions, where it is island-wide, and in Asturias and Murcia, another internal division); and in municipal elections it is the municipality. In the elections to the General Council of Aran the constituency is the terçon.


Spanish government offices abroad which confirm the register of absent residents (CERA) for election purposes. This is where voters who are resident abroad can vote in person or arrange for postal voting for general, European and regional elections.

Count record

Official document showing all the count details from a polling station committee: electoral roll, electoral roll certifications, spoilt ballots, blank ballots, ballots for each list, etc. It has to be signed by all the members of the committee (chair, members and observers).

Counted electoral roll

Sum of voters corresponding to the polling station committees counted up to a certain point in time. It is normally expressed as a percentage of the total electoral roll.

D'Hondt method

Electoral formula which is proportional. It is used in Spanish Parliament, Parliament of Catalonia, European Parliament and municipal elections. For each constituency, the votes obtained by the lists which have passed the threshold are divided by a continuous series of natural numbers (1, 2, 3 and so on) called dividers. The seats are assigned according to the size of the quotients obtained.

Data processing centre (CPD)

Facility where computer equipment and calculation programs are installed for polling station committee aggregation operations, counting votes and, in general, any computer operation or process for counting provisional results.

Data transmission centre (CDD)

Place where provisional election results are publicly announced by means of interim reports on paper, data on computer media and on television.

Data transmission incidents

Any incident which prevents proper transmission or recording of election day data. They include problems in receiving data and results from a polling station committee as well as mistakes in drawing up records which mean the information has to be checked. In general, any polling station committee that does not have correct results is an incident.

Day of reflection

Day before the election day that signals the end of the election campaign. It is illegal to try to persuade people to vote for a particular list or to try to influence their vote in any way on this day.

Election announcement

Statement by the competent body in the relevant tier of government announcing the election date with a calendar for nominations, announcement, election campaign, etc.

Election campaign

The time period prior to election day whose length is set at the announcement of the elections and during which lists can use public events and the media to ask the electorate to vote for them. General election regulations set it at a fortnight.

Election compatibility

Record of the election income and expenses of all the political parties participating in the electoral process.

Election day

Day on which voters can vote. Voting hours are from 9 am to 8 pm.

Election formula

Calculation procedure used to convert the electoral results from each constituency into a distribution of seats among the lists standing for election.

Election measures

Set of systems and equipment to carry out all the tasks related to the electoral process and for which the government calling the election is responsible.


Process whereby voters vote to choose the members of a chamber or parliament. In a narrow sense, the election is the day of the vote.

Electoral administration

It ensures the transparency and objectivity of the electoral process together with compliance with the principle of equality. It is made up of the Central Electoral Commission, the provincial electoral commissions, the area electoral commissions and, if need be, the regional electoral commission, and the polling station committees.

Electoral appeal

Legal procedure taken against decisions by the electoral commissions concerning the announcement of members elect, votes counted, etc. It stops the process to which it refers.

Electoral commissions

Electoral administration bodies which assess compliance with regulations and equality of opportunity. They handle any complaints or challenges that are filed and after the count validate the process of turning provisional results into final ones.

Electoral list

Set of candidates put forward for seats in each constituency. Under a closed list system the seats won by each list are taken up in the order in which the candidates appear on the list.

Electoral process

It is equivalent to the term elections in the broad sense. It includes a series of actions that take place in the time period from the calling of the elections until the announcement of candidates and the publication of final results.

Electoral roll

Set of individuals eligible to vote and who are not deprived of the right to vote. The electoral roll is unique for all kinds of elections.

Electoral roll certificate

Document issued by the electoral administration to prove that a person can vote even though they are not registered for the polling station committee where they want to vote. It amends the committee’s electoral roll.

Electoral roll district

Geographical grouping of electoral roll sections. It is an intermediate unit between the section and the municipality. The different electoral levels are (from largest to smallest): constituency, municipality, district, section and polling station committee.

Electoral roll office

Body responsible for drawing up the electoral roll. It is an administrative organisation coming under the National Statistics Institute (INE) which has offices in every province.

Electoral roll section

Electoral roll unit into which a constituency is divided and which contains at most 2,000 voters and at least 500. Under no circumstances may it have less than 200 voters. Each section may have one or more polling station committees. In the same way the sections are grouped into electoral roll districts.

Electoral system

Set of interrelated and legally established principles, norms, rules and technical procedures through which voters express their political preferences through their ballots, which in turn are converted into seats or political power. The main features that make up an electoral system are: the establishment and the size of constituencies, the form of lists, the voting procedure, the threshold and the electoral formula. Electoral systems can be classified into two broad categories: majority systems and proportional systems. Our current system is a proportional representation one and the electoral formula used is the d’Hondt method or system.

Eligible candidate

Person who stands in an election. All Spanish adults who are voters and are not in any of the cases provided by law that make them ineligible may stand in elections.

Final results

Results announced by the electoral commissions based on review of the provisional results. Once the election has been completed, they are the only valid data for all purposes and override the provisional results from the day of the election.

General count

A public act carried out by the electoral commissions on the third day following the vote to announce the final official results. It is done on the basis of provisional results and includes reviewing the records for any errors and correcting them if they are found.

Government calling the election

Government which calls and organises an electoral process. The Government of Catalonia, in the case of elections to the Parliament of Catalonia and the General Council of Aran, the Spanish Government, in the case of elections to the Spanish Parliament and the European Parliament.

Government representatives

People appointed by the government calling the election who on the day of the election send data about voting (electoral roll, turnout, votes, etc.) at each stage of the day to the information collection centre (CRI) by phone or electronically: opening of polling stations, data from polling station committees and turnout summaries or counts from their assigned polling station committee or committees.

Information collection centre (CRI)

Place to where government representatives send election day data: opening of the polling station committees, the details of the members of the polling station committees, turnout summaries and the results of the provisional count committee by committee (record by record). The CRI has data reception equipment, recording equipment and incidents equipment.

Initial / final roll

The initial roll is the one provided by the Electoral Roll Office at the National Institute of Statistics (INE) and is valid when the polling station committees are opened. It can be changed on election day by electoral roll certificates or by the decision of the chair of the polling station committee or a legal authority, and the result is the final roll.

Institutional campaign

Campaign to inform the public about the date of the election, voting procedure and the requirements and procedures for postal voting without influencing people’s decision about who to vote for.


Set of candidates which is presented in a constituency by a political party, federation, coalition of parties or group of voters according to the criteria and requirements set by law.

Member elect

Candidate who has won a seat for a particular constituency.


Person appointed by a list to represent it at a particular polling station committee and of which they are a member who can take part in discussions but not vote. They cast their ballot at this polling station committee.

Operational centres

Physical (not logical) facilities where all external processes for counting provisional results are carried out. They are divided into information collection centres (CRI), incident control offices (OCI), data processing centres (CPD), backup processing centres (CPB) and data transmission centres (CDD).

Polling station

Physical place where people vote. It may consist of one or more polling station committees.

Polling station committees

Basic unit of the electoral process corresponding to the alphabetical subdivision of the electoral roll section. It is also the electoral administration body consisting of a chair and two members and accredited observers where voters on its electoral roll cast their ballots.

Postal voting

Ballot cast by post by voters who for whatever reason believe they will not be able to get the polling station on the day of the election. They must have previously submitted an application at their provincial office of the Electoral Roll Office. The Post Office is required to store postal votes addressed to the polling station committees, take them to the polling station at 9 am and add any others it receives up until 8 pm.

Provisional count

Counting of votes carried out by each polling station committee when the polling stations close. The chair announces that voting has finished and the ballot boxes are opened and the votes counted. The polling station committee draws up the record with the final result, and gives a copy of it to the representative appointed by the administration who reports the data to the information collection centre.

Provisional results

Results that the government calling the election provides on election night from a processing centre set aside for this purpose. Even though the count is closed when 100% of the votes have been counted, the figures remain provisional until the electoral commissions have confirmed them.

Radio and television commission

Body run by the Central Electoral Commission which proposes the distribution of free party political broadcasts.


Electoral consultation in which voters are asked about one or more issues and in which the only possible answers are yes or no.

Register of absent residents (CERA)

People living abroad and eligible to vote in certain types of elections. They can vote in a ballot box at the consular office or by post. Their votes are not included in the provisional count.

Results report

Set of documents that contain regular information (votes, seats, etc.) from the vote count in the form of charts, tables, graphs or otherwise on paper or on computer media.


Unit in the parliament or chamber for which an election is held. The aim of the election is to assign seats in the chamber to the various lists based on the number of votes they receive and an electoral formula for allocating seats.

Spoilt ballots

Ballots cast in an envelope or ballot papers that are different from the official model, ballot papers not in an envelope, envelopes containing more than one ballot paper for different lists (if they contain a number of ballot papers for the same list they are counted as a single valid vote), ballots cast in altered envelopes, ballot papers where the names of the candidates have been changed, added to or crossed out or the order of the list has been changed, and ballot papers where any kind of writing has been added or there has been any voluntary or intentional alteration. In elections for the Senate ballot papers where more than three names have been chosen are considered to be spoilt.


Minimum number of votes a list needs before it can be awarded seats. In general elections and for the Parliament of Catalonia the threshold for each constituency is 3% of the valid ballots cast, while in municipal elections and for the General Council of Aran it is 5%. There is no threshold in European Parliament elections.


Number of voters who cast their ballots in the election. It can be given as an absolute figure or as a percentage of the electoral roll. Turnout may refer to a polling station committee, a municipality, a constituency or the entire electorate.

Valid ballots

The total number of ballots cast after subtracting spoilt ballots. They may be blank ballots and ballots for lists. It is the number used as the denominator for calculating the percentage of votes for each list.


Person exercising the right to vote. All Spanish adults who are not in any of the cases provided by law which make them ineligible to vote may vote.

Voters at a polling station committee

Number of voters who vote in an election at a particular polling station committee. It can be given as an absolute figure or as a percentage of the electoral roll.

Votes from resident voters who are abroad

Ballots cast by voters registered on the register of absent resident voters (CERA) who have previously submitted an application to their provincial office of the Electoral Roll Office except in the case of local elections. These votes are counted by the provincial electoral commissions which add them to the general count record (see Register of absent residents, CERA).

Voting certificate

Printed election certificate issued by the polling station committee at the request of any voter to prove that they have voted.