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Catalonia holds informal vote on secession

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) - Spain's northeastern region of Catalonia opened polling stations on Sunday to hold an informal vote on independence that the central government has called illegal.

The regional Catalan government pushed forward with the vote despite Spain's Constitutional Court ordering its suspension on Tuesday after it agreed to hear the Spanish government's challenge that the poll is unconstitutional.

“`Despite the enormous impediments, we have been able to get out the ballot boxes and vote," regional president Artur Mas said after depositing his ballot at a school in Barcelona.

Polling stations are being manned by more than 40,000 volunteers in an attempt to circumvent the court's suspension. Results aren't expected until Monday morning.

The ballot asks voters two questions: should Catalonia be a state, and if so, should it be independent.

Polls show that the majority of Catalonia's 7.5 million inhabitants want to vote, while around half support independence.

Catalonia's push for independence comes two months after Scottish voters voted to remain in the United Kingdom.

Mas has said the vote, which lacks guarantees such as an electoral roll, is only symbolic and will likely lead to anticipated regional elections that will stand-in for a referendum on independence.

There was a festive atmosphere as hundreds lined up in front of another school in Barcelona, with some wearing pro-independence regalia.

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