Are You Eligible to Vote in the Upcoming Spanish Elections?


This article is written in conjunction with the IE Law Society.

By Mario Sans Majuelo

Every year young adults from all corners of the globe choose IE University. For students in an institution located in a Western country (Spain) with Western values (such as free speech and equality), many find themselves unable to participate in what may be thought of as the modern liberal world’s pillar: democracy

By the time students land at Barajas, get a taxi from the Segovia train station and start classes, their capacity to engage in the democratic process is the last thing on their mind. However, whether it be via their lectures and in-class discussions, or by being members of urban communities, IE students find they cannot escape politics. As a result, many ask themselves… 

Can I vote? 

The opportunity to exercise the most basic right of legal adults living in Spain is open to many students, more than one might expect.

On May 28, 2023, all Spanish municipalities (cities, towns and villages) will hold elections to choose their “concejales, who will then appoint each town hall’s mayor. This process will take place in both cities that host IE campuses: Madrid and Segovia. 

Firstly, all students with a DNI (not to be confused with a NIE or TIE) are eligible to vote, but their votes will only be accepted wherever the Electoral Census acknowledges them to be living. This is why many students whose families live abroad may not be able to vote in the upcoming elections, unless they actively changed their legal residence before February 2023 (according to Ley Orgánica 5/1985, art 39). 

Secondly, students coming from any other EU-member state will be able to vote, given that they meet a series of conditions. Similarly to Spaniards living abroad up until the start of their studies, EU students need to have registered as residents of either Segovia or Madrid two months before the calling of municipal elections. Yet, an additional step is required for them: that they express their intention to vote. This is done either electronically through the Electronic Office of the Spanish National Statistics Institute (INE), or by physically going to the town hall. The Census Office will send a letter with more specific instructions once you have registered as a resident. The easiest way to find out where your vote will be expected is to simply wait. The Electoral Census Office sends out small “tarjetas censales” to all who are eligible to vote some weeks previous to the election, which include all relevant information about where you have to go on May 28. 

Nevertheless, the elections for the Madrid town hall must not be confused with the other elections being held at the same date and place: the Elections for the Asamblea de Madrid. These will affect the entire Madrid autonomous community, and thus are of a different nature to the municipal elections explained above. In this case, only students with a DNI will be allowed to vote, as the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU solely observes the right of its citizens to vote in municipal and European elections when living in a fellow EU-state. 

However it may be, democracy is arguably the climax of a centuries-long process of succeeding, imperfect governance structures. It is a system by which we, as individuals, can influence the future we wish to see and affect how the world evolves. As such, we ought to respect democracy and take an active role in it, wherever we are. If you weren’t aware of your ability to vote, take action, get informed and register. Even if you can’t register in time for this election, take the steps now to be eligible for future elections. Refer to the sources below if you have more questions!

See you May 28! 


Featured image courtesy of Unsplash

IEU Law Society
IEU Law Society
The IEU Law Society brings the legal world closer to our university's student body.

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