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Berlin election official resigns after polling station chaos

September 29, 2021

Berlin Election Commissioner Petra Michaelis said she has accepted responsibility for chaotic conditions at polling stations in the city. Some Berlin residents had to wait hours to cast their ballots in long lines.

Long line of voters in Berlin on election day
Some Berliners reportedly could not vote until 8 p.m., two hours after polls had closed Image: Monika Skolimowska/dpa/picture alliance

The top election official in the city of Berlin stepped down from her role on Wednesday after she faced heavy criticism for chaotic polling stations during Germany's federal elections on Sunday.

What did the election official say?

"I accept responsibility in my role as state returning officer for the conditions in conducting the election," Petra Michaelis said. She has called on the Berlin Senate to find a successor in October. 

Michaelis had served in her role since 2010. She had made a public apology for the chaos on Tuesday.

Berlin Election Commissioner Petra Michaelis
Michaelis has been heavily criticized for the chaos on election day Image: Christoph Soeder/dpa/picture alliance

Some Berlin residents had to wait in long lines for up to two hours to make their voices heard on Sunday. Other Berlin voters were forced to wait until after 6 p.m. to cast their ballots, when polling stations were supposed to have closed. 

The Bild tabloid newspaper reported that the Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf and Friedrichshain districts were the most heavily impacted by the disruption. 

In addition to the federal parliamentary elections, voters in the capital also took to the polls to elect a new parliament for the city-state of Berlin itself. Separate municipal elections also took place, along with a referendum on landlords in the city.  

What caused the election day chaos? 

The fact that multiple elections were happening simultaneously, along with coronavirus restrictions and shortages of ballot paper, were believed to have caused the disruption. A major marathon in Berlin taking place on election day also put a strain on city authorities. 

An initial probe into the election chaos by officials found problems at around 100 of the 2,257 polling centers in Berlin. The results from a full investigation into the disruption are expected next week.  

Sunday's elections were a landmark for Berlin, with the city electing its first female mayor.   

wd/aw (AFP, dpa, epd)