A local court in the autonomous Spanish city of Melilla, on the North African coast, has opened an investigation into an alleged case of postal voting fraud after an unusual number of people requested documentation for remote voting in the regional and municipal elections on 28 May.
Applications for remote voting had already reached 11,002 (19.94% of the total) by Thursday and more than double the number for the 2019 municipal elections. These figures are much higher than the national average of 2.84%, El Pa?s and RTVE reported.
This “flood” of requests for postal voting in Melilla, added to the numerous indications by the Spanish National Police that vote buying is taking place in the autonomous city, has led the Electoral Board of the Zone (JEZ) to open an urgent investigation, both Media reported.
“Although experience in this city has shown that the percentage of voters who opt for this method of voting is much higher than the national average, this percentage has shot up in relation to the immediately preceding elections. These figures are unsustainable, and without further intellectual effort, suggest that there may be irregularities in the postal voting process,” the JEZ stated in a press release.
As an urgent measure, the institution decided on Thursday that citizens who have requested the ballot by post will have to identify themselves with their ID card at the post office to deliver the envelope with the ballot paper.
The Melilla Court of Instruction opened preliminary proceedings for alleged electoral fraud at the request of the Spanish Police. The proceedings are being kept secret, RTVE reported.
Until now, it was necessary to present a valid ID to request the postal voting documents but not to hand in the envelope with the ballot paper at the post office, which was allegedly used by vote-buying networks to alter the ballot papers on the way between the two procedures, the Spanish newspaper reported.
Although mail-ballot buying networks have been operating in Melilla for years, the volume of requests had increased exponentially ahead of the regional election, and the violence exerted by mafia networks has intensified, according to police sources.
Spain will hold regional and municipal elections on 28 May, with a general election expected to take place in December, during the country’s final month of presidency of the EU Council.
(Fernando Heller EuroEFE.EURACTIV.es)
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