By ANNE KAY AS has been mentioned several times in this column, 2003 is the year for local elections, namely May 25, and all citizens of the European Union may vote in their country of residence in the EU, even if this is not their country of birth.

What this means is that people can only be a resident of one country, and if they travel backwards and forwards from several different ones, then they must consider the country they live in most. However, naturally there is no real proof of this and so this year, the citizens are required to state their wish to vote in a particular country.

All people resident in Spain are obliged by law to register on the local Municipal Census, and those non Spanish members of the EU who have done so since August 1, 2002, will have been asked to state if they wish to vote in local Spanish elections. All those people who were on the Census before August 1, 2002, will have to make this statement.

As I have always been very interested in encouraging people to get onto their local electoral lists, it was very disappointing to know that only about 10 per cent of residents did actually register for voting in local elections in 1999. Some people said that they considered themselves to be only guests in this country and did not want to participate. Others said that they thought they were automatically on the electoral roll once they had registered at the Town Hall. Also, some people, namely Norwegian and Dutch, whose countries had a special agreement with Spain prior to Spain becoming part of the EU, had actually registered for voting in a previous European Election and had thought that this registry was still valid and it was not.

Things have changed now, and people who state their wish to vote in Spain, will not have to do so again until they move to a different municipality or away from this country. However, although I have asked different people, authorities from the Andratx council, lawyers in a political party and looked on the web page of the Spanish Electoral Office, I have found no agreement of criteria for the limit of being able to get onto this voting list, except in connection for the Norwegians, who must do so between January 15 and February 15, 2003.

I shall now quote the official English version of the norms relating to the elections as found on Internet for the Office of Spanish Electoral Roll:
In the last week of October 2002 the Electoral Census Office will send letters to all non–Spanish European Union citizens (over 18 on 25 May 2002) who featured in municipal registers on 31 July 2002 and whose data have been communicated by town councils. These registers total 499.661 There are two notification models: one for those who have not shown their intention to vote in Spain in municipal elections and another for those who have expressed their wish to do so. Notifications have been edited in Spanish and the language corresponding to the nationality of each register.

Actions by the citizen:
If intention to vote in Spain has not been expressed:
If you wish to vote in Spain in municipal elections, fill in the declaration, seal the envelope and send it postage free to the Electoral Census Office Provincial Delegation. If there is any error in the registration data come to the town council to correct it (in this case, you may deliver the declaration in the same town council.

If intention to vote in Spain has already been expressed:
If all the data are correct it is not necessary to carry out any action.
These persons will be treated as voters. If there is any error in the data come to the town council to correct it. Information line: 901 101 900 – Therefore, I would recommend anybody interested in voting, and who perhaps has not received the pertinent papers yet, to take a trip into their local town hall and check, because in Andratx, they say that the closing date is January 31, 2003.

I don't think that it is valid to say that you are only guests in this country, because if you pay rates and taxes, you should have an opportunity to take part. Not only that, if people moan to me again about something that takes place in their municipality, I shall probably ask if they have voted or not.

Watch this space.