Misc 22/01/2021

Can you resign from being appointed to a polling station on Feb. 14?

Guide to the conditions affecting citizens appointed as presidents, members, or substitutes

4 min
El president de taula fa l'obertura d'una mesa electoral a la localitat biscaïna de Durango, amb totes les mesures de seguretat davant la pandèmia del coronavirus

BarcelonaAfter the High Court of Justice of Catalonia (TSJC) decided to keep the date of the Catalan elections on February 14th as a precautionary measure, city councils all over the country had to run to call extraordinary plenary sessions, government meetings and technical services of the city councils. The goal: to meet the deadline set by the Central Electoral Board (CEB) to appoint the 82,053 members - full and substitutes - of the 9,117 polling stations scheduled for the elections. The deadline for making the draws ended this Wednesday, despite the fact that in the Barcelona area the provincial electoral body gave the municipalities one more day of margin. The chosen citizens, however, have already begun to receive the notifications as they are called to be part of the 14-F polling places. The same Government foresees more difficulties than usual to constitute the vote-counting stations this time around. The pandemic generates "fear", the government admits. But what margin do citizens have to resign? These are the conditions and exceptions fixed in the Spanish electoral law (Loreg), and the protocols of the Government to vote in time of pandemic.

Who can be part of a polling station?

With the exception of those who stand for election, all citizens included in the list of voters at a polling station who are under seventy years of age and who can read and write can be appointed as presidents, members or substitutes. In the first case, they must also have a high school diploma, vocational training, or at least be compulsory education graduates.

Can one resign from a board?

The positions of chairman and member of the boards are compulsory, although people over 65 years of age may resign within seven days of receiving the notification. If the notification is given to them by a city council official, they can also resign at that time. All other appointees have the same period to present allegations to the Area Election Board if they have "good and sufficient causes" that prevent them from accepting the position, which will be resolved within five days. If the period of allegations has expired, those chosen who find themselves "unable" to go to their polling station must communicate this to the Area Board with a minimum of 72 hours and providing the "relevant justifications". "If the impediment appears after this period, the notice to the Board should be made immediately and, in any case, before the station is constituted", the law adds.

What happens if resignation is massive?

In one of its latest reports on the elections, the Generalitat assumes that the context of the pandemic "may end up leading to behaviour of insubordination with regard to the duty to participate in the electoral process". It even points to the possibility that the members or substitutes of the polling stations may not turn up at the schools for fear of being infected. According to the Loreg, the Area Board could then designate one of the voters who were in the voting room at the time. If the situation had not been resolved one hour after the tables had been set up, however, voting would be postponed at that point and would have to be held within two days, which is why new members would be appointed to the table.

Can people who disobey be sanctioned?

"Those who fail to appear at the designated polling station risk being sanctioned if the failure to appear is unjustified. Even the Public Prosecutor's Office can be notified", lawyer Marc Marsal, a member of the Government's Legal Advisory Commission, warned in an interview with the ARA this week. According to the electoral law, the president and members of the polling stations, as well as their respective substitutes, who do not show up at the polling stations or leave their functions during election day "without legitimate cause" can incur a "prison sentence of three months to one year or a fine of six to 24 months".

What happens to people who are infected or have symptoms?

Members of the polling station will have their temperature taken, which must always be below 37.5 degrees. Otherwise, as reported in a Twitter thread by the general director of electoral processes, Ismael Peña-López, the person in question will be sent to the primary healthcare center and from there to his or her home. If necessary, he adds, people will be tested for antigens before setting up the table to find out if they are infected. Peña-López admits that the test result may be a false negative. However, he adds,"It means you don't have enough viral load to infect anyone". If board members have symptoms on election day, they will have to go to the appropriate urgent healthcare center (CUAP) or call 061, which will make the appropriate assessment before they go to the polling station.

What protective measures will be in place at polling stations?

According to the protocol established by the Catalan Government, the members of the table will be provided with four masks to be renewed throughout the day, a facial screen, an extra FFP2 mask, disposable gloves for the time of the vote count and sufficient hydroalcoholic gel for frequent use throughout the day. In addition, during the last voting period - which is intended for infected people, close contacts and people suspected of being infected - table members will use integral high security personal protective equipment (PPE). This equipment will consist of protective clothing, gloves, mask FPP2 and goggles and the members of the tables will have to put them on in shifts between 18.40 and 19 h. Each table will be two meters away from the next one and members will have to keep a minimum distance of 1.5 meters between them during the whole day. The protocol provides for constant cleaning and disinfection of the voting tables and other contact points.

What protocol will have to be followed regarding voters?

The presidents and spokespersons of the tables will not have to touch at any time either the documentation or the voting envelopes of the voters. Voters will show their official identification document so that the members of the table can see the necessary data and, if necessary, they will indicate to the person casting the vote to show the envelope to check that it is correct. Voters shall not remove their masks at any time unless the table requires it momentarily to facilitate identification, according to the protocol of the Generalitat. There may only be only one person voting at each table, unless the voter needs assistance.

How does the appointment affect work environment?

Employees or civil servants appointed as members of the tables have the right to full-time paid leave on election day if it falls on a working day (this is not the case on 14-F, which will fall on a Sunday) and, in any case, they can request a reduction in the working day by five hours on the day immediately following the vote. In addition, they will receive a compensation of 65 euros, with an increase of between 10 and 25 euros in the case of presidents.