Every four years, citizens choose their municipal leaders but while nationals are automatically registered, foreigners have to go to their Junta de Freguesia (Parish Council) to make their registration in order to be able to vote in the next elections, on 26 September.
The deadline for registration ends 60 days before election day, specifically on 27 July. This means that expats only have few days left to guarantee that they have their say in Portuguese politics.
If you appreciate the work of your mayor, then this is a chance to support them and to make your voice heard.
Few expats registered to vote
According to Luís Encarnação, mayor of Lagoa County, in an interview with The Portugal News, there are very few foreigners listed to vote in the municipality, even though the number of expats is extremely high.
“Of the almost 5,000 foreigners who live in Lagoa County, only about 600 are registered to vote”. This number dates back to April this year.
Lagoa is not the only Portuguese council where the number of foreign residents is huge. All over the Algarve, especially, there are many expats who are residents. In Vila do Bispo around a third of the population are foreigners, in Lagos it’s nearly 30 percent, in Portimão it’s around 20 percent, in Albufeira nearly a third and in Loulé as well as Tavira a quarter of the population is a foreign resident.
As we can see through these numbers, the Algarve has a great percentage of foreign inhabitants and if everyone makes the decision to vote, it could even decide the election results, which is representative of the strength that the entire community can have not only in the Algarve, but in the entire country.
While the importance of the foreign vote is easy to see, actually being able to register has been proving a problem for some.
People struggling to register to vote
We have received reports from readers who are unhappy with the process of registration – some of them complaining about difficulties in the actual process and others who have not been able to register at all.
“I went to my Parish Council and was turned away because they said that my pre Brexit residency is not valid, but I also have a document from SEF to prove that I am resident”, said one British resident in the Algarve.
“If they want foreigners to vote then they have to understand the documentation that British people have now. SEF is not making appointments for people being able to request the documents, however, my permit is still valid and they must accept it. I'm legal in the country and allowed to vote”, they told The Portugal News.
In this case, the public servant was insisting that they would need a card instead of the papers they had. However, the resident said that it’s “impossible to have that card at the moment because SEF doesn’t schedule any appointments and my papers are valid anyway”.
After many calls and persistence, they were finally able to register with the same documents that had initially been denied.
“My advice to people is to be persistent and if the Junta won’t or can’t help then to call the Câmara directly. I was disappointed that this was a difficult process. I have lived here for many years, I speak Portuguese, I know my rights very well and I still had problems. I'm afraid that other people in a similar situation will end up giving up”.
However, confusion with documents is not the only problem. We were also contacted by people who could not register because they are not included in the system. In fact, more than 100 countries are not included, so it’s best to double check first.
Who can vote in local elections?
In addition to Portuguese citizens, foreign residents over 18 years of age have the right to vote in Municipal elections, as long as they are registered in the Portuguese census, if they are Brazilian citizens with a citizen card or ID card, or if you are from one of the following countries:
- Member States of the European Union (Germany, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Denmark, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxemburg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Check Republic, Romania and Sweden);
- United Kingdom, with residence in Portugal prior to Brexit;
- Brazil and Cape Verde with legal residence in Portugal for over two years;
- Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Island, Norway, New Zeeland, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela with legal residence in Portugal for over three years;
That excludes everyone else, as is the case of Australian, Frank La Piram, who was unable to register in his parish. "I went to my Junta de Freguesia with my wife to do our registration, but we found out that our country is not included in the system”.
“In our area we have a very large expat population that have no power or influence to determine local government policy, which is completely unfair. We pay taxes and we would like to have a say in these elections but we can’t because Portugal only allows a few more than 30 nationalities to vote, which is not enough. What about Australians, Americans and the other 170 nationals that cannot get the right to vote because the system doesn't allow it?”
To avoid any situation like these just make sure that you are legal in the country and that your home country is included in the list of countries above.
Foreigners are treated as second class citizens here.
Even though we as a population have turned rotting houses and neighbourhoods around with massive investments in renovation and reclamation.
The local Camaras,especially Albufeira with high amounts of foreigners living there,do nothing to engage them
There seems to be prices and rules for locals and rip offs and stonewalling for foreigners.
Time for a clean sweep of the incumbents and for fresh blood to take over.
We are here,we are not invisible and we should have an equal voice.
Those that ignore us and treat us like second class citizens should not be ruling over us.
By James from Algarve on 23 Jul 2021, 07:58
Yes I had problems when I went to the Junta because they couldn’t use my shiny plastic ID card - why? Wait for this….the card is not dated!
By Lauree from Lisbon on 23 Jul 2021, 10:33
This was happening in Ourique so on behalf of the Brits I contacted the mayor direct as it's in his interest to have as many voters as possible. It was sorted with the various Juntas within the concelho within a couple of hours and Brits have been registering all week.
By Sue from Alentejo on 23 Jul 2021, 10:55
When did Ireland leave the EU? Surprised Ireland's departure wasn't even mentioned in the press.
By Thomas O'Neill from Algarve on 23 Jul 2021, 12:14
The Municipal Government should keep, foreign residents informed on the elections and when they can vote. There has to be communication. Thank you
By Tony from Other on 23 Jul 2021, 14:34
Perhaps people that have encountered problems with voter registration could file a complaint with the National Elections Commission. I have posted a link to the complaint form here. https://www.cne.pt/form/consulte-cne-queixas
By Kevin from Algarve on 23 Jul 2021, 15:35
Portugal should remember that Ireland has a seat on the United Nations Security Council - of which the secretary General Mr Guiteres! Perhaps its time to inform him of the situation?
By John Gallagher from Algarve on 23 Jul 2021, 16:25
I noticed Switzerland is not on your list. Is it really excluded from registering? What about the U.S. so long one is a Resident one should be able to vote in Municipal elections?
By Sultan Riaz Khan from Algarve on 23 Jul 2021, 17:09
I'm registered and was for the last local elections. Absolutely no info given on where and when to vote, nothing through the letterbox. Although there is financial incentives for the council to have more voters, I don't think they actually want us to vote!
By DAvid Clark from Algarve on 25 Jul 2021, 00:09
I am having all kinds of issues, registering to vote among them. I have been resident for five years. However the Freguesia that issued my origninal residence permit won't recognise it for voting registration purposes, they say it is out of date and that the SEF document means nothing. Same goes for the centro do saude. To get medical treatment I have had to go private. My local centro do saude has also had no doctore for over a year, and the same goes for the next couple of villages to me.
By Steve Cook from Beiras on 25 Jul 2021, 08:59
Like Thomas O'Neill, I too was surprised to learn that Ireland was not included in the list of EU countries. It was a member last time I checked.
By John Pierce from Algarve on 26 Jul 2021, 13:11
Why has Ireland left the EU? Didn’t see that one coming
By Gus Sheridan from Algarve on 28 Jul 2021, 08:04