Berlin court orders rerun of chaotic 2021 state election

BERLIN (AP) — A Berlin court on Wednesday ordered a rerun of the German capital’s 2021 state election because of severe election-day glitches at many polling stations.

The constitutional court of Berlin, one of three German cities that is also a state in its own right, declared the original vote invalid. It said in a statement that a partial rerun wouldn’t be enough “in view of the large number and severity of the election errors.”

That followed complaints by several political parties and government entities over the Sept. 26, 2021, vote for the state legislature. Those complaining included Berlin’s election authority, the far-right Alternative for Germany party and a satirical political party, The Party.

Berlin held four votes on the same day last year: the state election, an election for the city’s 12 district assemblies, the German national election and a local referendum. The Berlin Marathon, also held the same day, added to logistical difficulties.

Long lines formed outside many polling stations as voters struggled with extra ballot papers. Some polling stations ran out of ballot papers during the day and others received ones for the wrong district, leading to a large number of invalidated ballots.

Another issue was that the election was supposed to end at 6 p.m., but voters waiting in line at that time were allowed to cast their ballots — at a time when exit polls were already public.

A new state election must be held within 90 days following Wednesday’s ruling. The new head of Berlin’s election authority, whose predecessor resigned after last year’s chaotic vote, has said Feb. 12 is a likely date. The district assembly elections also will be rerun in full.

Earlier this month, the federal parliament decided that the 2021 national election must be rerun in 327 of Berlin’s 2,256 electoral districts. However, no date has been set for that and a federal court challenge is considered likely. That partial rerun isn’t expected to make any significant difference to the national election result.

It could be a different story in the Berlin state legislature, where the center-left Social Democrats of Mayor Franziska Giffey finished only narrowly ahead of the environmentalist Greens — led by Giffey’s current deputy in a three-party left-wing coalition — in the original state election.

Giffey said her government would not challenge the court ruling and will do everything to make sure the rerun election is well-organized.

“It’s very clear that mistakes were made here that must not happen again, that shouldn’t have happened,” she said.

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