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55,000 Catalan citizens told to staff polling stations on referendum day

But Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy warns participation means breaking the law

A pro-independence banner during Monday's La Diada march in Barcelona.
A pro-independence banner during Monday's La Diada march in Barcelona. AFP

Around 55,000 residents of Catalonia have started to receive letters informing them that they have been randomly selected to attend polling stations on October 1, the day of an independence referendum that the Catalan government intends to hold despite opposition from Madrid and the Spanish courts, which consider it illegal.

The letters will be sent out between Thursday and Friday to people under 70 years of age selected from an electoral roll drawn up by the Catalan authorities.

Being a member of a polling station is an unavoidable civic duty

Catalan voting guidelines

The administration led by Carles Puigdemont figures that it needs nearly 55,000 people, including substitutes, to staff the 6,300 polling stations it plans to open on October 1.

Each polling station will have a president and two additional officials, mirroring the structure of any regular election. Those selected have a legal obligation to show up for these duties, according to Catalan legislation which has been suspended by Spain’s Constitutional Court.

This puts people in the quandary of whether to obey Catalan or Spanish authorities.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has publicly told people not to help with the referendum in any way because it is illegal.

If anyone is summoned to man a polling station, don’t go

Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy

“If anyone is summoned to man a polling station, don’t go, because there cannot be a referendum as it would be absolutely illegal. The referendum is manifestly illegal,” he said.

But a guidebook sent out to selected citizens by Catalan electoral authorities underscores that “being a member of a polling station is an unavoidable civic duty.”

The Catalan government is also planning to have scrutineers at the stations, as with any other vote. The difference this time is that all the observers will be from political parties that support secession, since no other political groups recognize the referendum as valid, and will therefore not participate in any way.

Authorities have also made a call for volunteers to help with referendum-related work. Four days ago there were already 30,000 people who had signed up, according to the Catalan government.

English version by Susana Urra.

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