Departure from home: 11h30m. Arrival: about two hours later. On the way to the University City, where the early vote for the elections takes place presidential in Lisbon, the environment got warmer. The better temperature than on other days calls for walks and runs in the Campo Grande garden and the possibility of exercising the vote this Sunday took many people to the street in full confinement. The surprise comes around the corner, when the rectory can be seen, even before crossing the lawn ahead. Inside that building, Manuel Rodrigues explains what is going on: “Outside, the fagot arrives in Campo Grande. People are queuing up to know where they vote ”.
Despite the confusion, this voter was ahead of other people given his age (88 years) and his physical condition. He chose to vote first to avoid crowds in times of pandemic: “Were you going to crowds?”
Like Manuel Rodrigues, also Joana Lima, 38, decided to enroll in the early vote for “a pragmatic issue. Not to be in long lines ”. However, that is not what happened.
Joana Lima added that the “line was apparently long. But I got here fast ”. How much time? “15 to 20 minutes,” he replied. But as time went on, the wait got worse. After 1 pm, Gonçalo Oliveira, who was on the street about to enter the rectory building, told PÚBLICO that his time in line was “too much. Almost an hour ”.
There were several reports of delay and on the lawn it was possible to see people who took collapsible benches that were opening and closing as the line progressed.
In these elections, 246,880 voters registered in an early vote. The possibility of early voting on mobility was extended in times of pandemic, and each municipality has a voting point, when in 2019 early voting on mobility was exercised only in the district capitals. But a polling station turned out to be little or at least confusing, given the demand.
Salvador Nery, 31, considers that “some disorganization is notorious”, but explains that the problem begins even before it reaches the university city. “When we signed up for early voting we received a confirmation message that indicates the voting place, but does not say the building”. In Lisbon there were four buildings where it was possible to do so: Rectory, Faculty of Letters, Faculty of Law and Old Cantina. This was the detail that was missing from the message. The messages said rectory. What caused many people to arrive and put themselves in line at the rectory.
“I also think they shouldn’t be expecting so many people,” he admitted. In Lisbon alone, 33,364 are registered to vote today. In 2019 legislatures, a little over 56,000 people registered to vote in advance, across the country.
When he arrived, this voter asked the staff scattered across the pitch which would be your polling station and this prevented you from being in the wrong row. However, it was not so with everyone. In the middle of the lawn, it was possible to hear a person saying that he had already walked “in lost lines”.
Carlos Silva, chairman of the section 12 table, said that people would come to the table to complain about “lack of signage”. “Staff teams could have a flag” to be seen and thus make it easier for people to search for information on the table they would vote for.
Again inside the building, everything seemed simpler. People kept their distance from each other and respected health safety rules. Inside, people from the organization could be seen scattered around, helping with directions on where to enter and where to leave.
In the street, in the lines, distance was possible and people wore the mask. But not everything seemed to fit into the confinement that Portugal is going through. “People can’t go to shopping centers and that’s it,” said a man near the rectory building.
There were those who gave up voting, but there were those who preferred to wait. This was the case of Manuela Laranjeiras, who usually votes in Esposende and was in Cidade Universitária with her husband and young daughter. “In my municipality there was not going to be a gathering, but I don’t plan to do so many kilometers in this situation” of a health crisis, he said. Manuela was at the end of the line, but did not think about giving up because this was the only chance to vote, despite her daughter asking for a lap. “We even thought about going to vote and the other going home with the girl. And then we changed ”.
Despite the delay, not everyone took the time to be lost. Even though he knew he could vote for it next Sunday, Gonçalo Oliveira held on to fulfill what he stressed was his “duty”. “I think it’s worth coming today,” said Salvador Nery. The voters that the PUBLIC spoke with revealed that they did not miss the day of reflection, which does not exist in the early vote. “I have been voting for many years”, justified Manuel Rodrigues.
At lunchtime, the lines continued and the return home allowed us to see that only there, where people vote in advance, it looks like an unfinished city. Besides, with the stores closed and the shutters not working, the streets were empty.