Remote Voting in Spain: The Challenges and Benefits

About Congreso de Diputados of Spain

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Written on September, 2020




Remote voting in Spain was initially implemented as a solution to accommodate pregnant deputies, those on maternity or paternity leave, and members with serious illnesses. Since its inception in 2011, the Congress of Deputies has significantly developed and refined its electronic voting system. This essay delves into the experiences and challenges encountered during the establishment and evolution of electronic voting before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, it discusses the future of remote voting in Spain and its potential implications on parliamentary proceedings.


Pre-Pandemic Electronic Voting


Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the electronic voting system in the Congress of Deputies was introduced as a response to the needs of pregnant deputies and those on maternity or paternity leave, as well as members with serious illnesses. After the approval of procedural reforms, the system was implemented in 2011, requiring a digital signature, a digital certificate, and the authorization of the chamber’s bureau for members to vote remotely. Although the system faced some initial challenges, such as providing training and support for members in remote areas or those with limited connectivity, it proved to be efficient and secure. The first computerized vote was cast in 2012, and by March 2020, 1,854 votes had been cast digitally by 50 members.


During this pre-pandemic period, electronic voting was primarily restricted to specific cases like pregnancy, maternity, paternity, and serious illnesses. The system was designed to guarantee the identity and non-repudiation of the member casting the vote. While it had its limitations, such as not being applicable to all types of votes and requiring a specific digital certificate, it served its purpose effectively.


Electronic Voting During the Pandemic


The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic led to a radical shift in the way parliamentary proceedings were conducted, with a substantial increase in remote work, videoconferencing, and electronic voting. As a result, the number of members requesting remote voting skyrocketed, necessitating modifications to the computer application and processes to accommodate the increased demand. The IT services were stretched thin as they tried to adapt to the surge in videoconferencing and remote work requirements, with personnel providing personalized support and guidance for members.


Despite the challenges, the electronic voting system demonstrated its resilience and adaptability during the pandemic. In one particular plenary session, all 350 members cast a staggering 105,000 votes—a significant increase from pre-pandemic numbers. Throughout this period, the system maintained the rigor of identification and non-repudiation, proving its efficacy under pressure.


Future Perspectives


As the world continues to grapple with the ongoing pandemic, it is clear that remote work, videoconferencing, and electronic voting will remain essential aspects of parliamentary functions. However, it is crucial to strike a balance between in-person and remote work to ensure the effective functioning of the Congress of Deputies. Members must have the flexibility to work remotely when necessary while still maintaining the integrity of parliamentary proceedings.


Any future decisions regarding remote voting will need to be supported by legal modifications and the continued evolution of the electronic voting system. This may include refining the system to make it more accessible, user-friendly, and compatible with various devices, as well as expanding its scope to cover a broader range of voting scenarios.


The implementation of electronic voting in Spain’s Congress of Deputies has faced numerous challenges and has undergone significant evolution since its inception in 2011. The COVID-19 pandemic tested the system, but it proved resilient and efficient, demonstrating the potential for remote voting to become a more integrated aspect of parliamentary functions in the future. As the world continues to adapt to new ways of working, Spain will need to consider the balance between in-person and remote parliamentary work, making necessary legal modifications and technical advancements to ensure the seamless functioning of the Congress of Deputies.


Expanding Remote Voting Opportunities


As the electronic voting system has proven its efficacy during the pandemic, there is potential for expanding its use beyond the previously limited scope. This could include extending remote voting opportunities to deputies who are unable to attend sessions due to travel restrictions or other personal reasons, as well as incorporating electronic voting for a wider range of legislative matters. This expansion would require a comprehensive review of existing legal frameworks and the development of robust guidelines to ensure the integrity of the voting process.


Enhancing Security and Accessibility


With the potential for broader use of electronic voting, it is crucial to continuously enhance the security and accessibility of the system. This could involve implementing additional measures to protect against potential cyber threats and ensure the privacy of members’ votes. Furthermore, the system should be designed to accommodate a wide range of devices, including mobile phones and tablets, making it more accessible for all deputies, regardless of their technical skills or resources.


Education and Training


As electronic voting becomes a more integral part of parliamentary functions, it is essential to provide ongoing education and training for deputies and support staff. This could include regular workshops and seminars to keep members up-to-date on the latest technological advancements and best practices for secure and efficient remote voting. Additionally, dedicated support personnel should be available to assist deputies with any technical issues they may encounter during the electronic voting process.


Balancing Remote and In-Person Work


While the benefits of electronic voting and remote work have been clearly demonstrated during the pandemic, it is important to maintain a balance between remote and in-person work in the Congress of Deputies. In-person attendance at plenary sessions and debates remains an essential aspect of parliamentary work, fostering collaboration, dialogue, and a sense of camaraderie among members. To strike the right balance, future decisions regarding remote voting should carefully consider the potential impact on the overall functioning of the Congress of Deputies and the importance of maintaining a strong parliamentary presence.




The challenges and experiences of electronic voting in Spain’s Congress of Deputies have provided valuable lessons and insights into the potential for remote voting in parliamentary functions. As the world continues to adapt to new ways of working in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond, Spain must strike a balance between remote and in-person work, making necessary legal modifications and technical advancements to ensure the seamless functioning of its Congress. By expanding remote voting opportunities, enhancing security and accessibility, providing education and training, and maintaining a strong parliamentary presence, Spain can continue to build upon the successes and lessons learned from its electronic voting experiences.

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