On Sunday, 25 October 2020, one year since massive social protests took the streets of Chile, a referendum to vote for the option to write a new constitution took place. This day was likely to be historical. 30 years had passed since the end of Pinochet’s dictatorship, but these 30 years of democracy had still been ruled by Pinochet’s constitution.

At the same time, the election marked the second occasion in which Chileans abroad were able to vote in their countries of residence - the first time was in 2017 for Presidential Elections. Nevertheless, this option to vote is limited to an in-person fashion, through the embassies or consulates, forcing citizens to travel to the nearest city with an electoral circumscription to exercise their right to vote.

In the context of the pandemic, there were several issues with guaranteeing that all people who wanted to vote were able to. All over the world, restrictions of movement were put back in place around that time, due to the rise of a second infection wave. In most countries only the capital city had an available polling place. Voting abroad requires a huge amount of effort and commitment for some citizens, and during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, these costs are probably even higher. What are the main factors that influence the decision of voting, when the costs of doing so are high? How did the pandemic affect turnout in the election?

For this study, I will use publicly available data on the election results and turnout in each city outside of Chile, for both the 2020 plebiscite, and the 2017 Presidential elections. I will combine these with city level data on the COVID-19 incidence during the week of the plebiscite, and in addition, results of an individual survey on the motivations and costs of voting. This survey was spread with help of the consulates, social media groups, and social networks, reaching 648 completed surveys within seven days.