Drive-Through Voting for People in Isolation and Quarantine

drive-through voting election 2021

Being in isolation or quarantine due to COVID-19 will not prevent Icelanders from voting in the parliamentary election this Saturday, September 25. While those in either situation are not permitted to attend polling stations this Saturday or advance polling stations, special drive-through stations have been set up for them in Reykjavík and all other constituencies.

Drivers must follow infection prevention rules while voting: they must be alone in the car and are not permitted to open their car windows or doors. They must present a piece of photo ID to the election official, then identify their party of choice, for which the official website recommends using “a piece of paper and writing utensil.”

Voters can access a list of drive-through polling stations with opening times. It is not necessary to register in advance for drive-through voting. The Reykjavík drive-through polling station is located on Skarfagarður í Sundahöfn. It will be open daily from 3:00 PM to 8:00 PM until election day, when it will be open from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM.

Voters who are not able to drive to the special polling stations can request to vote at their residence or wherever they are staying during their quarantine or isolation period. An application for that service must be submitted in advance through island.is.

US Stealth Bombers Leave Iceland Following Extended Deployment

B-2 spirit stealth bomber

Three B-2 Spirit stealth bombers that arrived at Iceland’s Keflavík International Airport on August 23, 2021 spent an extended period in the country, Stars and Stripes reports. According to the outlet, Iceland was used as a new launch point for bomber missions to Europe. “this is the first time the B-2 has operated continuously from Iceland,” Lt. Col. Matthew Howard is quoted as saying. “Having the B-2s in the theater in Iceland allows us to respond to any potential crisis or challenge across the globe.” The three bombers returned to their home base in the United States on September 11 once their Keflavík mission was completed.

Large defence investments in Keflavík

Iceland does not have its own military. Its defence policy is founded on the country’s membership in NATO and the 1951 Defence Agreement signed by Iceland and the United States. In 2019, the Icelandic government increased its defence budget by 37%, citing four large projects as the main expenses. The largest proportion of the funding goes toward operation of Keflavík Airport and the Icelandic Coast Guard.

The US Military has also invested millions in renovations at the Naval Air Station in Keflavík to “support NATO air surveillance missions and the collective defense and military activities in this crucial North Atlantic location,” according to a press release from the United States Air Force.

Growing strategic interest in Arctic

Iceland is strategically positioned at the edge of the Arctic, which has become a region of growing interest for powerful nations, not only in relation to national security but also for its economic possibilities and vulnerability to climate change. Iceland’s Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir chairs the Left-Green Movement, which opposes the country’s membership in NATO. In 2020, she stated that “permanent [military] presence or a new military base in Iceland, is out of the question.”

During an official visit to Iceland earlier this year, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken stated that the United States planned “to continue to maintain the US presence on a persistent rotational basis,” adding that any changes to current operations “are closely co-ordinated with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and all NATO allies.” He added that the Arctic “must remain an area of peaceful co-operation.”

Fire Destroys Grímsey Church

The historic church on Grímsey island, North Iceland, was burned to the ground in a fire yesterday, Vísir reports. While no people were injured in the fire, it was not possible to save any items from inside the church. The cause of the fire is unknown.

Named Miðgarðakirkja, the church on Grímsey was built out of driftwood in 1867. In 1932, it was moved further away from the neighbouring farm due to risk of fire and a tower and choir loft were built on to the structure. The church underwent extensive renovations in 1956 and was reconsecrated that year. The renovation included wood carvings made by Deacon Einar Einarsson both on the outside and inside of the building. Miðgarðakirkja was protected in 1990.

Elín Elísabet Einarsdóttir, Grímsey church

While the cause of the fire remains unknown, Henning Henningsson, one of Grímsey’s two firefighters, suspects it was an electrical fire. “It was an old electrical panel and there is little else that comes to mind.”

Grímsey island is the northernmost point of Iceland and has 67 inhabitants.

Update: An earlier version of this post included a photo of another church.