Race Day: Marathon, historic election generate buzz in Germany’s capital city

Two big races are drawing crowds of people to Germany’s capitol city Sunday — the annual BMW Berlin Marathon and a historic parliamentary election that will decide who succeeds Angela Merkel as chancellor.

More than 25 thousand runners and other athletes from all over the world are weaving through the city, with spectators and supporters lined up along the race route. In many places, this lies just feet from voters queuing outside one of the city’s 1,500 polling sites.

In Berlin’s Kreuzberg neighborhood, polling site 121 is located inside a gymnasium. Here, more than 1,000 eligible voters can cast a ballot for their constituency, party list, and other state and city elections.

As spectators, musicians, and other cheer from the streets, the same enthusiasm can be found inside. Mirella Pappalardo and a small team of eight paid volunteers are running the location for the city/state of Berlin.

They check the identification of voters, provide the ballot, answer any questions, then collect the completed ballot in a locked box.

Pappalardo says she hopes record number of voters will participate in the election of process. According to the office of the Berlin Land Election Commissioner, the turnout is typically 70 to 80 percent.

“They want to vote because they want to be responsible for the changes in that country,” Pappalardo said.

Despite living in Germany for the past 51 years, the 55-year-old journalist and filmmaker is voting in her first election. Originally from Sicily, Pappalardo completed stringent citizenship requirements for Germany in the last two years.

“It’s really an emotional thing. It’s not about just receiving the letter and thinking, ‘Am I going to vote or not?’ It’s just, go there and do whatever needs to be done. And it’s an honor to vote.”

German voters have the option of voting early at a district election office, voting at a polling site on the day of the election, or casting a ballot by mail.

Knowing she would be busy at the polling site 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 ample time to consider the candidates and issues on the ballot.

“Because I grew up here, I know who I like. I know them from TV. I’ve met some of them personally and I know them. But still, when you’re up for that moment to make your check here (to mark the ballot), it’s like, ‘Am I sure that I’m doing the right thing? I don’t know.’”

When polls close at 6 p.m. Sunday, election officials will begin the process of certifying all votes cast. Germany doesn’t utilize electronic voting methods, so every ballot is counted by hand at each polling location.

A recent practice run of the process took seven hours to count 600 ballots, according to Deputy Election Commissioner Prof. Dr. Ulrike Rockmann.

By the time the winners of the marathon cross the finish line and receive a medal around their neck, candidates and parties hoping for big winds in the election may not know their fate until early Monday morning.

The views expressed in this blog do not necessarily reflect the views of KLTV/KTRE-TV or Gray Television. They are solely the opinion of the author. All content © Copyright 2021 Lane Luckie

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