BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — The Latest on Catalonia’s plans to hold a referendum Sunday on breaking away from Spain (all times local):
Catalan officials say that voters will be allowed to cast ballots at any polling station, rather than a designated one as previously announced, as many locations have been sealed off by police.
Regional government spokesman Jordi Turull says the last-minute system will allow the 5.3 million eligible voters to cast a ballot and avoid repeated votes.
Turull says that Catalans will be able to vote with ballots printed at home if needed, announcing that authorities had printed new ones after 5 million paper ballots were confiscated by police. He also said that a group of “academics and professionals” would serve as election observers.
The electoral board appointed by the regional parliament was disbanded last week to avoid hefty fines by Spain’s Constitutional Court.
Ballot boxes began arriving at some polling stations for a disputed referendum on Catalonia’s split from Spain that is being met with fierce opposition from Spanish authorities.
Police acting on court orders have been trying to confiscate ballot boxes for weeks as the crackdown to halt the vote intensified.
On Friday, officials unveiled a prototype of the plastic ballot boxes with a logo of the regional government.
Spain’s Constitutional Court ordered the vote to be suspended and central authorities say it’s illegal. Hopeful voters have been occupying out some of the designated voting stations to avoid police taking control and closing them off.
Some of the Catalans who are defying court orders to vote in a disputed referendum on their region’s secession from Spain say they want to send a strong message of displeasure with central authorities.
Activist Augsti Gil says there were no ballots or ballot boxes in Barcelona’s Joan Fuster high school where more than a hundred people have joined another hundred who spent the night occupying the designated polling station.
Gil says they expect materials to arrive Sunday morning ahead of the 9 a.m. opening of polls.
Joaquim Bosch, a 73 year-old retiree at Princep de Viana high school, where a crowd of 20 people was growing says he is uneasy about a possible police response to the crowds.
Bosch says: “I have come to vote to defend the rights of my country, which is Catalonia.”