Politics 05/02/2021

Electoral Board of Barcelona discards volunteer pools and will reassign substitutes to other poll stations

The avalanche of requests for exemptions generates a risk that it will not be possible to vote in some zones until 48 hours later

2 min
Imatges of some epis and protection material that will be used in Barcelona in the 14-F elections

BarcelonaThere will not be a pool of volunteers to man poll stations, as the president of the Electoral Board of of Barcelona proposed a few days ago, but there will be a reassignment of substitutes. This is the formula that has been chosen to solve the avalanche of allegations that the zone boards have been receiving from people requesting an exemption to their electoral duty to man poll stations. The mechanism that has been established by the Provincial Board of Barcelona (and the one recommended by all the zone boards of the province) will be to relocate the substitutes that have not had to stay at polling stations they were assigned to to others where not enough people turned up. "Preferably" they will be sent to poll stations in the same municipality, but it will be up to the corresponding boards to decide based on their needs. What is discarded is to select the first voters, as the electoral law foresees, taking into account that the Generalitat has recommended that the elderly vote between 9 and 12 a.m.. Barcelona zone board has received more objections than any other: 8.000 out of the over 20.000 that have been received throughout Catalonia.

In Tarragona province, the Reus Board has received the most requests: almost 700. "If a poll station could not be constituted, its constitution could be postponed up to 48 hours". The president of the electoral board of Reus, Diego Alvarez, recalled that if presidents or members of polling stations were missing on Feb 14, the law provides several mechanisms so that the vote does take place, including "postponing the vote of polling station up to 48 hours", i.e. until February 16, and that would mean that votes at that poll station would be received "between Monday and Tuesday". Álvarez considers this scenario "very possible" in some cases, he explained to Ràdio 4. However, this does not detract from the legitimacy of 14-F, he said in a second interview to TV3: "It would be legal that in these tables to vote on Tuesday and the election result would be perfectly valid because it is provided for in the law."

More than 20,000 people (25% of the total) have already requested to be exempted from electoral duty. Álvarez, who is not worried about the avalanche of allegations because he says that there are still 60,000 people "available", said that 95% of the excuses are accepted. As a result of the numerous allegations, substitutes could be notified as late as Saturday evening, said the president of the electoral board of Reus. "It would not be ideal, we would have problems to find people at home on Friday or Saturday, but it would be feasible," he explains.

Álvarez has also discarded the call for volunteers because the law does not foresee it and because there is a risk that there will not be any, after the Síndic de Greuges (Catalan Ombudsman) has taken a position against it.

The constitution of polling station was complicated further after the Catalonia's Doctors' Association has asked for an extraordinary period of vote by mail for the infected and their close contacts so that they do not have to move to polling stations. For now, the Central Electoral Board has rejected the appeal filed by the infectious disease specialist Oriol Mitjà to prohibit coronavirus-positive people from voting in person. The period to request the postal vote ends this Friday at 2 pm. Those who have requested it within the deadline will have time to vote until next February 12.