Berlin hit by ballot shortages and long queues amid marathon chaos

Berlin hit by ballot shortages and long queues amid marathon chaos
Numerous voters queue up outside of a Prenzlauer Berg polling station to cast their vote on Sunday. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Hauke-Christian Dittrich
Voters in the German capital have faced long queues and a tense atmosphere at polling stations as the city tries to navigate three elections, a referendum and a marathon on the same day.

According to reports in German media, Berlin’s polling stations ran out of ballots and were unable to restock them thanks to road closures during the marathon – leading to delays of more than an hour and long queues for would-be voters.

“There is chaos here at the moment,” an election officer in west Berlin told German daily Welt. “Three elections and the Berlin marathon together – that couldn’t go well. The result? There are no more ballot papers here.”

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On Sunday, Berlin is voting in three elections: the federal elections, the state elections, and the elections for the district councils. In addition, eligible voters will be voting in the ‘Expropriate Deutsche Wohnen & Co.’ referendum, which will decide the fate of the Berlin rental market. 

By midday, 27.4 percent of Berlin’s eligible voters had cast their ballots. This is around the same turnout as in the 2017 federal election, when 27.2 percent had voted by noon, according to the state election commissioner.

In two polling stations in the district of Wilmersdorf, election volunteers had to inform people queuing that there would be long delays, as voters bickered with each other and grew impatient. 

“You can wait, you can come back later. We’ve been on the phone for hours, they say the slips are on their way, but they can’t get through because of the marathon,” election workers told irritated voters.

Around 3pm, according to Welt, the Wilmersdorf election helpers were sent off on bicycles to fetch more ballots from the district town hall at around 3pm, after people had been queuing for around an hour. 

Finally, at 3:40pm, voting was allowed to continue as the missing ballots were finally delivered.

Writing on Twitter, other Berliners shared reports of chaos at polling stations across the city. 

“At the Ustinov School polling station in Charlottenburg, the ballot papers have run out! Substitutes can’t get through because of Berlin Marathon! Unbelievable,” former ARD journalist Ulrich Deppendorf wrote.

Some helpers also informed Welt that they had called the police as they grew concerned about potential unrest. 

According to Welt, Monika Grütters (CDU), State Minister of Culture, was one of the voters affected by long delays. “Berlin is not getting it right,” she told reporters. “I passed other polling stations, they have the same problem.”

‘Unfortunate delays’

According to the Federal Election Officer’s Twitter account, the missing ballots were primarily for the district assembly vote, rather than the federal elections. 

“Due to mixed-up ballot papers, there were unfortunately delays and invalid votes in some polling stations in Berlin on Sunday,” they confirmed, adding: “There are no indications that ballot papers for the parliamentary (Bundestag) election are missing.”

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People will also be permitted to return to the polling stations until 6pm in order to cast their vote in the District Assemblies if they were unable to beforehand, the Federal Election Officer confirmed.

Anyone who turns up at the polling station by the 6pm deadline will be permitted to vote – even if queues mean they end up casting their vote after that time. 

“The proper conduct of the Bundestag election is thus guaranteed,” they tweeted. 


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