Catalonia election preparations hindered by COVID-19 ‘objectors’

Election Boards do not have a specific deadline to answer the allegations and may do so up to the day of the elections on 14 February, and even hours before the opening of all polling stations in Catalonia. [EFE/EPA]

Ahead of key regional elections due to be held on 14 February, over 9,000 citizens in Catalonia have asked the Election Board to be exempted from taking part as members of polling stations for fear of being infected with the coronavirus. EURACTIV’s partner, Efe, reports.

So far, around 11% of the 82,000 citizens called by the Election Board to work in polling stations in Catalonia have submitted statements in an attempt to avoid taking part as “election judges”, “returning officers” or other staff who monitor the voting procedures.

Their main excuses include being over 65 years of age, being pregnant, having persons or relatives to take care of, or having a chronic illness.

The number of “objectors” is expected to surge, amid the upward trend of infections in Catalonia and the rest of Spain, local media reported on Wednesday (3 February).

Spain has been badly hit by the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, with 724 deaths reported on Tuesday (2 February) and a total of 59,081 fatalities since March 2020.

Fresh polls predict tie between separatist parties in Catalan elections

Fresh polls predict a virtual “technical tie” between the two main pro-independence parties in the elections to be held in Catalonia on 14 February. Socialist candidate and Spain’s former health minister Salvador Illa is predicted to come third. EURACTIV’s partner EFE reports.

Recruiting volunteers

To speed up the process, the president of Barcelona’s Electoral Commission, Judge Santiago García, told El Periódico that local authorities have started to recruit volunteers.

Thousands of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) units, special face masks, gloves, and other protective equipment will be distributed in all polling stations to ensure the safety of workers and voters, Spain’s public radio and television (RTVE) reported on Wednesday.

A team of forensic doctors will examine on a case-by-case basis all statements to check and verify if all medical certificates submitted are legally eligible for an “exception”, under current health circumstances.

In Barcelona alone, 3,250 petitions of exemption have been received as of 29 January, local media said.

However, due to the complexity of some of the allegations, doctors will have the final say and decide who will (or not) be discharged from this obligation.

Election Boards do not have a specific deadline to answer the allegations and may do so up to the day of the elections on 14 February, and even hours before the opening of all polling stations in Catalonia.

[Edited by Daniel Eck and Frédéric Simon]

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