Turnout low in Cuban referendum

Havana, Sep 25 (EFE).- The nationwide referendum in Cuba on the Family Law – which includes, among other things, making same-sex marriage legal, allowing same-sex couples to adopt children and surrogate pregnancies – was conducted, by all accounts, normally on Sunday, albeit with low voter turnout and the refusal of many people surveyed for exit polling to say whether they had voted “Yes” or “No.”

Most of the 15 or so people queried by EFE – in an admittedly non-representative sample – at polling stations in Havana said that they voted against the measure, although almost all refused to be questioned on camera or to identify themselves.

Some said that it was all right with them if same-sex couples wanted to marry, but others said that they had cast a “punishment” vote against the government – meaning that they voted “No” in protest against the weeks-long campaign by the government, the National Electoral Council and the Supreme Court to convince the public to vote “Yes.”

Audio operator Roberto Carlos Rodriguez, 30, said that he categorically rejected the measure. “I don’t agree with the referendum. It seems to me that it’s not the fairest thing for the Cuban family because what they’re seeking is to threaten mothers with taking their children away,” he told EFE in Havana’s 10 de octubre district Havana resident Amelia Ponce, 57, told EFE upon leaving her polling station in Old Havana that she voted “Yes,” calling the law “necessary,” and remarking “I voted ‘Yes’ because it’s inclusive and is going to give many rights to many people.”

EFE found that voter turnout appeared to be slight in several precincts in the capital, although there were long lines – as always – at shops where people waited to buy basic items like bread or chicken.

According to election authorities, at 11 am some 37 percent of eligible Cubans had voted, 20 points off the level at the same time of day in the 2019 referendum on the new constitution.

Polling places opened at 7 am so voters could express themselves in the fourth referendum held since the 1959 Revolution and the first for a specific law.

Preliminary results are scheduled to be released on Monday, with a simple majority being required to approve the law.

Meanwhile, Cuban authorities in eight of the country’s 15 provinces postponed the closure of the polling places by one hour because of the heavy rain that has been falling all day on Sunday due to Tropical Storm Ian, which is passing south of the island but it predicted to make a northward turn as it enters the Gulf of Mexico later this evening.

Thus, all polling stations in the regions of La Habana, Ciego de Avila, Santiago de Cuba, Holguin and Guantanamo, along with Isla de la Juventud, along with of the precincts in the capital and two other municipalities in the provinces of Matanzas and Camaguey were to have closed at 7 pm rather than 6 pm.

As of 2 pm, 54.82 percent (or about 6.8 million) of Cubans eligible to vote had gone to the polls, according to the National Election Council, and this, too, was a participation rate almost 20 points below that of 74.09 percent registered by that time in the 2019 referendum.

President Miguel Diaz-Canel and his predecessor Raul Castro went to the polls on Sunday, with the former telling reporters that he was convinced that the “Yes” option would win after an intense campaign by the government to tout the advantages of the new law, although he warned that a “punishment vote” could also be cast by some Cubans.

So far, election authorities have not reported any incidents at any of the roughly 24,000 polling stations around the country.

Before being approved in July by the National Assembly, Cuba’s unicameral legislature, the 25th draft of the law was submitted to the public between February and April at some 79,000 meetings and gatherings in neighborhoods and towns.

EFE lbp-lh/jpm/szg-laa/bp

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