New way for British ex-pats to register to vote in 2023 local elections
There has finally been important clarification this week on the process British residents in Spain, including the Canary Islands, have to follow if they want to be able to vote in local elections in May next year, and there is only a six-week window to register which opens on Thursday, December 1st.
Before the UK left the EU, British citizens could vote in European and council elections in Spain by filling in an extra form once they were on their local town hall census padrón.
However, that system doesn’t exist anymore, and instead, the vote is only available to those who have been living in Spain continuously for three years, and who re-register to vote each time they come around, every four years, even if they have been registered before. Also, Britons can no longer vote in any European elections because the UK has left the EU.
The government stress that this does not mean reregistering on the padrón (municipal census) but the separate electoral roll for council elections. The next vote for local councillors is 28 May and the period for British residents to register to vote who have been living in Spain for three years or more will run only from 1 December this year to 15 January next year.
Messages from the UK Embassy on its Brits in Spain Facebook page this week, and from some local authorities with high numbers of British residents, have explained that a letter to all those eligible to register to vote is being sent out by the Spanish electoral census office (Oficina del Censo Electoral), in the last few days of November and first few days of December. This will set out the process and is being sent to the addresses held on the local council's padrons.
The letter is expected to contain a form to fill in and return by post by January 15th to register, or details of registering online. In the event that the letter does not arrive, or if a person has questions, the UK embassy has advised Britons to contact their local town hall for a face to face consultation.
The embassy said, "Thanks to the agreement that was signed between the UK and Spain in 2019, all UK nationals who have been resident here for three years are entitled to vote."
The statement added that UK nationals must "be registered on the padrón municipal, and confirm registration on the electoral roll (censo electoral) within the dates set by the electoral authorities before each election".
The implementation of the new rules is the responsibility of the Spanish authorities and not the UK government or embassy.
UK citizens can still stand as local councillors if they have been resident in Spain for at least three years.
The voting registration system has not changed for residents from other European countries that remain in the EU, including those from Ireland.