SANTIAGO — Due to Covid-19, Chile’s referendum for a new constitution was moved to Oct. 25. With less than two months to go until the vote, the virus is still with us. The president therefore approved a bill that allows the Electoral Service to establish related health measures.
On Aug. 25, in a ceremony at La Moneda Palace, President Sebastián Piñera promulgated a law called Plebiscito Seguro (Safe Referendum). The law allows the Electoral Service to implement health measures the day of the vote.
Two months from today, millions will be voting on whether they want to rewrite the Chilean constitution or maintain the current one. The idea for the referendum sprang from last year’s protests, as many reject the current one because it was drafted during the Pinochet dictatorship.
Covid-19 put the vote on hold: the original date for the referendum was Apr. 26, but it had to be moved to Oct. 25, after the first cases arrived in March and, thereafter, the number of cases grew exponentially. Among the things that Congress has discussed since then are rules to protect voters from Covid-19 on Oct. 25. The Plebiscito Seguro is the result of these discussions.
New Powers For The Electoral Service
This law – previously approved by Congress – grants new powers to the Electoral Service to take preventative measures against Covid-19. The law allows the Electoral Service to instruct how and when polling stations will operate, where they will be installed, and how many will be placed in the same space.
The Electoral Service is also given the power to specify the number of people allowed inside and outside of polling places and to take other precautionary measures, like requiring voters to wear masks and bring their own pencils.
Now that the law has been promulgated, the Electoral Service, together with the Ministry of Health, must prepare a general protocol for voting day that includes all instructions. The protocol must be published at least 45 days in advance of the referendum date, which means that it should be ready on or before Sept. 10.