Postal votes boost turnout in Bavaria poll amid coronavirus fears

By Ulrich Kaufmann, dpa

Officials reported a rise in turnout for regional elections in the southern German state of Bavaria, as more voters opted for postal votes amid fears over the spread of coronavirus.

In the state capital, Munich, 36.6 per cent of eligible voters had cast their ballots by noon (1100 GMT), officials said, up 10 per cent on the same time during the last Bavarian poll six years ago.

The figure included postal voters, whose numbers were up considerably on 2014 amid fears over the coronavirus pandemic.

In Regensburg, turnout by midday had reached 40.3 per cent, of which 25.4 per cent were postal voters.

Elsewhere, in Ingolstadt, officials were reportedly hesitant to give turnout figures, as large numbers of poll workers pulled out at the last minute after returning from coronavirus hotspots.

Voters in Augsburg were advised to form queues outside polling stations to avoid creating crowds inside and to bring their own pens and pencils to vote to protect themselves from infection.

“The recommended preventative infection protection measures are being implemented,” said Augsburg’s incumbent mayor, Kurt Gribl, in a statement. “If the rules of hygiene are kept to, there is no reason not to go to vote in Augsburg,” he added.

The vote came as Bavaria recorded its second death from the virus, bringing the death toll in the state to nine. The country’s Robert Koch Institute registered 3,795 cases in Germany late on Saturday.

Bavaria, a wealthy state of 13 million people, is voting to elect town, city, and county councils and a number of mayors in a total of 4000 elections. The cities of Munich, Nuremberg and Augsburg are among those electing new mayors.

Voting booths close at 6 pm (1700 GMT). Some initial results are expected on Sunday evening, others will be reported in coming days.

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