Paulo Costa was speaking to the Lusa agency at the end of a hearing, via video link, of the Parliamentary Committee for Foreign Affairs and Portuguese Communities, before which he explained the steps this movement had taken with the aim of gaining greater access to immigrants to the elections in Portugal.
In the last presidential elections, which took place on January 24 this year, the immigrant vote was 1.88% (29,153 out of 1549,380 Portuguese registered abroad).
This was low participation, and many sectors of Portuguese society at the time, including some presidential candidates, also indicated the mandatory personal vote, which was hindered by the restrictions imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Even before this year’s presidential elections, on December 31, 2020, a petition from the “We Are Portuguese Too” movement entered Parliament, defending “the necessity to review and amend the current election law in accordance with the current de facto reality, in order to incorporate the possibility of regular mail voting for resident Portuguese citizens.” Abroad in all electoral actions that are taking place in Portugal. ”
Since this election work, the movement has initiated several steps and contacts, among them the General Secretariat of the Ministry of Interior Administration. In one of these meetings, the movement learned that in the last legislative elections, on October 6, 2020, about 400,000 ballot papers were returned with the wrong address.
This is 27.2% of the ballot papers sent to 1,466,754 registered voters, of whom 158,252 (10.79%) voted.
Paolo Costa explained to Lusa that one of the reasons for so many wrong addresses is due to the difficulties in the home modernization process, following the changes, which are often repeated in countries like Brazil or the United Kingdom.
“There are families in the United Kingdom who change their address almost every year,” he said, defending the facilitation of the process of updating the address on the citizen’s card, to which the ballot paper for these Portuguese residents abroad is sent.
Paulo Costa admits that he was surprised by the large number of ballot papers returned, although he already had an idea that many of them were sent to the addresses on the citizen card, but were not updated.
He said that digital investment also does not seem at the present time a solution to this update of addresses to become easier, because “it includes applications and steps that are not very easy.”
In the consulates, he said, the biggest difficulty is the time to wait for these procedures.
Paulo Costa defends – and he believes Portuguese authorities are developing this – that Portuguese voters abroad can arrive in advance at the address to which the ballot will be sent, in order to make sure it is correct.
Despite these restrictions regarding mail voting, the movement continues to defend this possibility for presidential and European elections, along with electronic voting, although the latter does not stop until after the tests.
After the immigrant vote controversy in the last presidential election, the Public Security Directorate handed over to Parliament, a week after the polls, a legislative initiative to link postal voting with face-to-face voting.