SANTIAGO — A referendum to vote on a new Constitution is set for Oct. 25. The options “Apruebo” (“Approve”) and “Rechazo” (“Reject”) have polarized society since last year’s social outburst laid bare severe disagreements about Chile’s political and economic direction. Following is a procedural guide for election day.
Massive protests that began in October 2019 brought to the fore the decades-long demand to end Pinochet’s Constitution. Although political parties and organizations have talked about rewriting it for years, it was only after the estallido social (“social outburst”) that the government decided to put it to a vote.
This Sunday, Oct. 25, millions of Chileans will decide if they want a new Constitution. They will also decide how it should be rewritten if the vote favors a rewrite.
Referendum During The Pandemic
Authorities have had to adapt the referendum to the practical realities of the coronavirus pandemic. As an initial matter, the referendum was postponed from Apr. 26 to its current date, Oct. 25.
The government will not postpone it again. Instead, it has implemented safety measures to try to prevent an outbreak of election-day-related cases – among them, a controversial rule, that prohibits people from voting if they test positive for Covid-19 from Oct. 14 on. As of Oct. 20, there are nearly 14,000 active cases in the country, so the number of people affected by this rule is not insignificant.
Those who don’t comply with the rules risk fines and even prison time. Police officers will be conducting random control checks and the areas with the highest active case counts will have more controls.
The Who, When, Where of Election Day
Voters must be age 18 or older, have Chilean nationality or, if they’re foreigners residing in Chile, they must have legally resided in the country for five years and not have a criminal record. According to the Electoral Service, there are 378,829 foreigners authorized to vote.
On the day of the referendum, voters should attend with either a Chilean identification (“ID”) card or passport, and these forms of ID will be accepted up to 12 months past their expiration dates.
The only day Chileans will be allowed to vote is Oct. 25, from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m., and voting is not mandatory. Due to Covid-19, there is also a preferential time for those over age 65: 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. (i.e., they will not have to wait in line to vote if they show up during this time window).
All voters must attend with face masks, and they should also bring a blue pen. Authorities said there will be blue pens available at the voting centers, but a personal pen is recommended to avoid contagions.
Due to the pandemic, the Electoral Service also increased the number of voting centers, so it is likely that many voters have been reassigned to different polling locations than in previous elections. Polling locations are listed here.
Finally, notwithstanding the pandemic, voters will be allowed to move freely to their voting centers regardless of Chile’s Paso a Paso phased reopening plan, but voters must carry an ID card or passport at all times on their way to and from the polls.
Chileans Living Abroad
According to the Electoral Service, 39,137 Chileans are authorized to vote from abroad. The Electoral Service has published the electoral options that will be available on Oct. 25 in different countries. They are available here by continent: America, Europe, and Asia, Africa, and Oceania. Polling locations outside Chile are listed here.
As for Chileans who want to reenter the country the weekend of the referendum, the Crime Prevention Undersecretary announced a new rule that will allow them to enter and avoid a two-week preventive quarantine. To do so, they must have a negative PCR test performed within 72 hours before they arrive in the country.
Fernanda Gándara is currently finishing her journalism degree at Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. She’s passionate about writing, environmental issues and women empowerment. You can find her on Twitter as @FerGMarchant