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The Experience and Importance of Voting Abroad

As a Spanish citizen, and since I recently turned 18, I have been able to vote in the recent election in Spain. I currently live in the United States, thousands of miles from my local polling place in Madrid, so I had to register to receive my ballot by mail. In order to do that, about a month before the election, I filled out an absentee voting form online. Once all of the online paperwork was processed, I received every document I needed to vote by mail, in addition to my actual ballot. I casted my vote, and sent it back by mail.

What election was it?

I voted in the 2019 General Election, or “elecciones generales” in Spanish. In this election, the Kingdom of Spain elected the makeup of the 13th General Courts, which is the name for the Congress of Deputies and the Senate together. This election is the third of its sort in less than four years, which makes it really politically charged and divided, as this election is in direct response to regional tensions and a rise of the far-right, after the Northeast region of Catalonia sought independence in 2017.  In this General Election, all 350 seats of the Congress of Deputies and 208 of the 266 seats in the Senate will be elected, bringing a lot of change to the General Courts.

The building that houses the Congress of Deputies in Spain (Source: WalshWW)

What is it like to vote in a foreign election?

This election was incredibly exciting for me, as it was my first time being able to vote! I am not a United States citizen, so I was not able to vote at all prior to this election. Being able to have my voice heard through a government vote for the first time felt amazing! When I wrote in my vote, I joked to my father that I had never felt more Spanish! It was a moment of pride and civic involvement that I truly treasure.

Additionally, the process that went into casting my vote was very interesting. Being a teenager in America, I have largely only been taught United States politics. Having to research Spanish political parties, issues at hand in the country, and the makeup of the General Courts was very much informative and, quite frankly, riveting! Spain operates its government in a very different way than the United States. Just when looking at political parties, you do not see the American bipartisan divide of Republicans and Democrats, as there are many major parties playing important parts in the Spanish government. Learning about the positions of each major parties was time-consuming, but incredibly interesting.

Source: TVM

Why does this matter?

I could absolutely not have bothered to vote! Signing up to get my ballot by mail was a time-consuming process, and so was doing the research on the current political parties and the significance of the election, and then finally having to send everything back. I would have saved my time and energy if I had just ignored the election, and focused on being in college in the U.S., rather than a citizen in a country far away from me.

However, that was not an option for me. That was not an option because of just how important it is to vote, and how close to my heart I hold the well-being of my home country. Not only does most of my extended family live in Spain, I absolutely plan to live there again in the future. Having a say in what happens within the government of my past and future home is so important to me. I could not have lived with myself if I were to ignore this opportunity to ensure that Spanish education, healthcare, and minority rights be legislated by the best party possible. Not only that, but as this election was critical in stopping the rise of the far-right and very conservative movements within the country, I had to do my part as a citizen and concerned individual to make my voice heard, and ensure a safer, more fair Spain for all.

Would I do it again?

Absolutely. There is an election coming up in May, that I have also recently registered to absentee-vote in. I plan to vote in every possible election in Spain, and in France too, as I am also a citizen there. It is my firm belief that everyone should vote in their respective countries, no matter how far away. Whether I reside within the country I’m voting in, or on the other side of the world, I plan to stay involved in and to always have a voice in the future of my countries. The research, the paperwork and the hassle are always, always worth the vote, and I strongly encourage all eligible voters, absentee and otherwise, to put in that research themselves and cast their votes in all elections possible.

Photo: Erik (HASH) Hersman via Flickr

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