Chile Gears Up to Vote in Constitutional Plebiscite

Sunday’s vote on whether to approve or reject the draft Constitution is obligatory for Chileans, and not casting a ballot will result in a fine

A polling official counts ballots at a polling station during the runoff presidential elections in Santiago, Chile, on Sunday, Dec. 19, 2021. Chileans are electing a new president on Sunday in a race so tight between two candidates of such contrasting visions that a nation long known as stable and prosperous seems thrust into an identity crisis that will shape its economic future and reverberate across Latin America. Photographer: Cristobal Olivares/Bloomberg
August 30, 2022 | 10:15 AM

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Bloomberg Línea — Chileans will go to the polls on September 4 to express their approval or rejection of the draft Constitution to replace the magna carta that dates from the 1973-1990 dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, and which was drawn up during a year of deliberations by a convention of citizens from across the political spectrum.

Chile’s Constitutional Convention presented the final version of the charter on July 4, although many observers have questioned the broad changes it would enact, from social rights to political rules.

The vote is mandatory for all citizens eligible to vote, and those who fail to participate will be subject to a fine of three UTMs (the monthly tax unit, equivalent to around 53,000 pesos) or 180,000 pesos ($204.50) approximately, according to the Chilean government.

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Voting will take place from 08:00 local time until 18:00 hours, with citizens asked to bring a blue pencil, a mask, alcohol gel and their identity card or passport. Polling stations will not close if people are still queuing, however, the government said in a statement.

What are the valid excuses for not voting?

Those who fail to turn out and vote will be summoned by a judge to present a valid reason, and only the following will be accepted as a valid excuse for not doing so:

  • Illness (a medical certificate must be presented on demand, including if the illness is Covid-19).
  • Being out of the country on voting day.
  • Being more than 200km away from home on polling day, with the need to present proof of absence to the police
  • Any other serious impediment, proof of which must also be presented

National holiday

In order that citizens can vote, September 4 has been designated a national holiday, meaning that all businesses operating within malls and strip malls will be closed. Authorities will supervise the observance of the holiday, and companies failing to comply will also be subject to a fine, ranging from 178,785 to 3,575,700 pesos ($4,061).

The public holiday and business closures will officially begin from 21:00 hours on Saturday, September 3, and run until 06:00 on September 5.

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However, supermarkets and stores outside of malls will be exempted from the mandatory holiday rule. Employees of service centers or emergency pharmacies may also work.

Workers who are required to perform their duties on September 4 are entitled to be granted two hours by their employer to travel to vote.

Public transport and security

Public transport will be running in order to allow citizens to travel to polling stations, and the Ministry of Transport and Telecommunications has arranged for 1,521 special transport routes to run to assist people living in isolated communities.

Santiago’s subway network will run from 07:00 until 23:00 hours on voting day, and will be free to use, as will trains running on the following routes: Limache-Puerto in Valparaíso; Rancagua-Estación Central, Nos-Estación Central, Buscarril Talca-Constitución, Biotren, Corto Laja, and Victoria-Temuco.

The government has announced that some 25,000 armed forces members and 45,000 police will be working to ensure security on voting day, as well as assisting in the transportation of ballot papers and boxes at the 2,914 polling stations.