BERLIN, Germany (KLTV / KTRE) – Two big races draw crowds of people to the German capital on Sunday – the annual BMW Berlin Marathon and a historic parliamentary election which will decide Angela Merkel’s successor as chancellor.
More than 25,000 runners and other athletes from around the world roam the city, with spectators and supporters lined up along the route. In many places, this is within meters of voters lining up in front of one of the city’s 1,500 polling stations.
In the Kreuzberg district of Berlin, polling station 121 is located inside a gymnasium. Here, over 1,000 eligible voters can vote for their constituency, party list, and other state and city elections.
As spectators, musicians and other street cheers, the same enthusiasm is found inside. Mirella Pappalardo and a small team of eight paid volunteers manage the site for the city / state of Berlin.
They verify voter identification, provide the ballot, answer any questions, then retrieve the completed ballot from a locked box.
Pappalardo says she hopes a record number of voters will participate in the electoral process. According to the office of the Berlin Land Election Commissioner, the turnout is typically 70-80%.
“They want to vote because they want to be responsible for the changes in this country,” Pappalardo said.
Despite living in Germany for 51 years, the 55-year-old journalist and filmmaker is voting for her first election. Originally from Sicily, Pappalardo has fulfilled the strict citizenship requirements for Germany for the past two years.
“It’s really emotional. It’s not just about getting the letter and thinking, “Am I going to vote or not? That’s right, go ahead and do whatever needs to be done. And it’s an honor to vote.
German voters have the option of advance voting at a district election office, voting at a polling station on election day, or voting by post.
Knowing that she would be busy at the polling station on election day, Pappalardo said she voted by mail.
“I did it at home. So I had my private space. I could take my time.
Pappalardo said she liked having enough time to consider the candidates and the questions on the ballot.
“Because I grew up here, I know who I love. I know them on TV. I have met some of them personally and know them. But still, when you’re ready to write your check here (to mark the ballot), it’s like, “Am I sure I’m doing the right thing?” I do not know.'”
As the polls close at 6 p.m. on Sunday, election officials will begin the process of certifying all votes cast. Germany does not use electronic voting methods, so each ballot is counted by hand at each polling station.
According to Deputy Election Commissioner Professor Ulrike Rockmann, a recent practice session took seven hours to count 600 ballots.
As the marathon winners cross the finish line and receive a medal round their necks, candidates and parties hoping for high winds in the election may not know their fate until Monday morning.
KLTV & KTRE presenter Lane Luckie covers the federal elections in Germany, which will determine who replaces longtime Chancellor Angela Merkel. Click here for more coverage of the impact it will have on relations with one of the United States’ closest allies.
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