Postal vote delays and staff shortages mar Spain's summer election

Conor Faulkner
Conor Faulkner - [email protected]
Postal vote delays and staff shortages mar Spain's summer election
Summer elections, particularly general elections, even more so surprise snap general elections, are rare in Spain. (Photo by JAVIER SORIANO / AFP)

Delayed delivery of postal votes and a shortage of workers are complicating Spain's election, with the right-wing Popular Party claiming it's part of the Socialists' plan to prevent voting by calling a snap poll during the summer.


With a little over a week to go until Spain's snap general election there is growing concern about a shortage of postal workers and delays of postal vote deliveries, something that could prove crucial in a summer election.

The July 23rd election date, a snap election called by Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez on the back of poor results in regional elections in May, has been heavily criticised in Spain, particularly by his right-wing rivals, the Partido Popular (PP).

Summer elections are incredibly rare in Spain and summer holidays take on an almost sacred importance for Spaniards, with most of July and all of August put aside for trips abroad or to second homes and coastal resorts within Spain. 

As Spain's bureaucratic machine - which some might say is not the most efficient at the best of times - slows down during the summer, it is generally accepted that getting any kind of administrative task done in August is nigh-impossible.

READ ALSO: Sánchez vs Feijóo: Who won Spain's election debate standoff?

Organising and administrating a general election then, especially one at a time when so many Spaniards plan to be away from home, is presenting its problems.


Postal delays

Barely a third of Spanish voters who have applied to vote by post have received their electoral documentation so far, with just 10 days to go until polling day. The figures are estimates of trade unions, as Spain's state postal service Correos has not provided official data yet.

The Central Sindical Independiente y de Funcionarios (CSIF) estimates that 2.2 million postal vote requests have already been processed, and they believe that the final figure may even be close to 3 million, which would be a record. This figure is more than double the number of postal votes processed for the last general election, held in November 2019, when 997,530 postal votes were processed, according to data from the National Institute of Statistics (INE).

READ ALSO: Is Spain's right-wing definitely going to win the general election?

Staff shortages

The main problem according to unions is a lack of personnel, which is complicating the distribution of postal votes.

Correos claim that 19,400 reinforcement contracts have already been prepared for the pre-election rush, and opening hours have been extended in several offices, especially in tourist and busy metropolitan areas. "Extraordinary openings on non-working days, depending on needs," have also been agreed, according to a Correos statement.

The postal service has also promised that it "will continue to hire as many staff as necessary" to guarantee the reliability of the postal vote. Further support staff of up to 12,000 could be hired, "far exceeding" requests made by the unions.


Unions dispute these figures, claiming that the new contracts are mostly holiday cover and not reinforcement contracts. CSIF says the promised reinforcements Correos have not yet arrived, while the workload has increased considerably.

According to their estimates, at least half of the staff have not yet arrived at the offices. "We are told from the workplace that these reinforcements are not being noticed," union sources say, pointing out that up to 25 percent of staff are already on holiday "and those who are left are not able to cope".

As the deadline for postal vote registration closes in, there are already reports of long queues in Correos offices across the country.

Correos has recommended voters do not to wait until the last minute to cast their vote in order to speed up the procedure and prevents further clogging of the system on deadline day.

Following claims of postal vote fraud in Melilla and Mojácar (Almería) during the recent local and regional elections in May, Spain's Central Electoral Board decided that voters must show their DNI or other identifying documentation in order to be able to vote by post.

READ ALSO: Electoral fraud scandals mar Spain's local elections campaign

Feijóo claims that Sánchez's decision to call the election in the middle of summer was a political move. (Photo by Pierre-Philippe MARCOU / AFP)

Summer elections - a political move?

Summer elections, particularly general elections, even more so surprise snap general elections, are rare in Spain. In fact, this July 23rd election is the first July election in Spanish history.

As with most things during the campaign, the issue has been politicised. PP leader Alberto Núñez Feijóo, who was himself the boss of Correos in the early-2000s, claims that Sánchez's decision to call the election in the middle of summer was a political move designed to dissuade voters from heading to the polls.

He has also cast doubt on the preparedness of the postal service and undermined Correos bosses by urging postmen to deliver "independently of their bosses" to make sure all postal votes are delivered on time.

"That is why I ask the postmen of Spain, with whom I have worked for the best years of my life, to work to the maximum, to work morning, noon and night," the PP leader and likely next Prime Minister of Spain said.

Speaking from the NATO summit in Lithuania, Pedro Sánchez accused the PP of "undermining people's confidence in Spanish democracy with these kinds of statements."


A statement from Spain's national postal service distanced the company from the politics: "Correos wants to stay out of debates that seek to undermine the country's institutions and public services. Correos defends the professionalism of all its employees and the services it has been developing throughout its more than three centuries of history."

"The postal voting process in Spain is safe and secure. The Central Electoral Board, an independent body, is in charge of auditing the process and ensuring that it is carried out with all the guarantees for the citizens," it added.

Politics aside, the postal delays and staff shortages showcase the problems of having a snap election during the holiday period in Spain, namely the the organisational issues of Spanish public institutions, more pronounced in the summer months as the country grinds to a halt, combined with the importance Spaniards place on their sacred summer holidays.


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