The president of the Electoral Board of Barcelona, Judge Santiago García, has acknowledged to EL PERIÓDICO that given the difficulties of forming the tables for the 2021 elections in Catalonia, they are trying to create a pool of volunteers to fill these positions .
The number of excuses presented so far in their area (Barcelona, Santa Coloma, Sant Adrià and Badalona) amounts to around 3,000, when in previous elections they were around 600 or 700. “People are afraid and are not as predisposed as in other elections “, he admits. In his opinion, “there is an obvious risk” that problems will occur in forming the tables and that some of them, in the end, may not be constituted.
With the search for volunteers, the aim is to avoid that the first voters to arrive are those who take care of the tables if they have not been able to form, according to the law. On this unusual occasion, the first voting slot has been reserved, precisely, for groups at risk of coronavirus.
Santiago García has specified that for the formation of the tables, a holder and two substitutes have been chosen for each of the three positions that are needed. However, he admitted he is “concerned.” by the situation.
The Superior Court of Justice of Catalonia (TSJC) already reported on Tuesday that more than 9,000 people have filed an appeal against their election as members of the polling stations on February 14, a figure that may still increase. Given this, and waiting for how they are resolved, García believes that on election day “it will be a real problem if it can go from 8 to 9 hours in more than one polling station.”
Both unemployed persons and volunteers could be chosen without the need for a draw, however, this system is not used to guarantee the neutrality and objectivity of the tables. If the members were volunteers, this principle of neutrality could be questioned since there could be political or power groups that wanted to exercise control over the process. As regards the unemployed, their exclusive choice could be considered constitutionally discriminatory .
García has also explained that they asked the Generalitat and the TSJC to facilitate the assistance of doctors when solving the allegations so as not to go to the tables. Finally, the members of the Electoral Board of Barcelona will have the advice of two forensic doctors who will help in the most complex cases.
These doctors must review the excuses and medical certificates that are required to make a first assessment of the case. Afterwards, the meeting is that you will have to solve.
The president of this electoral body maintains that two doctors are few before the avalanche of requests not to be part of a polling station. The problem arises when the petition is based on the fact that the chosen person argues not only the risk to their health, but also cares for a dependent or elderly person.
García recalled that in the event that this excuse was rejected, failure to comply with the appointment is a crime and would remain on the criminal record. It is common for the Barcelona Court to hold trials of this nature, in which fines can be imposed, as is the case in most cases, or, in serious cases, up to one year in prison.
Article 143 of the Organic Law of the Electoral Regime specifies that “the president and the members of the polling stations, as well as their respective alternates who cease to attend or perform their functions, abandon them without legitimate cause or fail to fulfill without just cause the obligations of excuse or prior notice imposed on them by this law, they will incur a prison sentence of three months to one year or a fine of six to twenty-four months.
Despite the panorama, the electoral machinery continues its course. Ballot boxes, ballots and protection and hygiene equipment for the members of the polling stations are now ready to be distributed by the polling stations of Barcelona . The electoral material is deposited in the municipal warehouses and this morning it has begun to be distributed throughout the city in a device unprecedented due to the pandemic.
From the age of majority until the age of 70, as long as they know how to read and write, no one is spared the possibility of being elected to a polling station . But it is possible to avoid it if any of the reasons, both personal, family and professional, expressly assessed by the electoral legislation for it are met.
Causes related to the personal situation that only need to be proven. The law declares those over 70 years of age exempt from being part of a table, but leaves the door open for those who are already 65 to request it. It is also a reason to have a declared disability or to be a pensioner of absolute permanent disability and great disability , as well as to be on sick leave.
Pregnant women of more than six months or maternity leave, regardless of whether or not they are paid from Social Security. Being confined to prisons or psychiatric hospitals , or having been part of a polling station, at least three times in the last 10 yearsand that there are enough people to be replaced by others also included in the same electoral list, thus avoiding allegations in populations with very few or aged inhabitants, where the same people are always at the table.
The last reason is to be the victim of a crime for which a judicial resolution has been issued that implies a penalty or precautionary measure prohibiting approaching someone registered in the same electoral college.
Personal causes, the circumstances of which must be assessed in each case: The injury, illness or physical or mental illness that prevents the performance of the functions that involve being at a polling station or that make it particularly difficult or painful to do so will be evaluated .
Being a pensioner due to total permanent disability for a certain profession or being at risk during pregnancy . If any relevant surgical intervention or clinical test is planned on the day of the voting, in the immediately preceding or the following day, which cannot be postponed for reasons of health or organization of health services.
Causes related to family responsibilities that are justified by themselves: The causes provided by law are the period of natural or artificial breastfeeding until the baby reaches nine months (which must be proven with the family book or certification of the person in charge of the Registry Civil), as well as direct and continuous care, for reasons of legal guardianship, of minors under eight years of age or of people with disabilities or family members up to the second degree of consanguinity who, due to age, accident or illness, cannot be used due to itself.
Family causes that must be assessed on a case-by-case basis: The attendance on the day of the election of family events of special relevance , which cannot be postponed or which causes significant financial damage, provided that the interested party is the protagonist or is related to up to the second degree of consanguinity.
The other reason is to be a mother or father of children under 14 years of age, when it is proven that neither the other parent nor any other person, such as an older brother, can take care of them during election day.
Professional causes that allow bypassing the polling station: Those who, on voting day, provide services in electoral boards, courts and public administrations and who precisely have electoral functions entrusted may present allegations to avoid being part of a polling station if they prove it.
Your superiors. In the same situation are those who must provide essential community services, such as doctors, health workers , members of civil protection or firefighters , and cannot be replaced by colleagues. Also included are the directors of the general information communication media and the heads of the information services who must cover election day.