Update: 2:14 Eastern Standard Time
Early exit polls indicate that Catalan independence parties are projected to win a majority of seats in Sunday's vote.
Voters in the Catalonia region took to the polls Sunday to cast their ballots in an election that will determine whether pro-secession parties win a majority in the regional parliament—and thereby a mandate to push for independence from Spain.
Polls predict that separatist parties will win a narrow majority, but analysts say that high voter turnout could shift the outcome.
Observers report that large numbers have indeed taken to the polls, with the Guardian noting that turnout is "on course to be the highest on record since the end of the Franco dictatorship in the 1970s."
"Today is a great win for democracy in Catalonia. We have surpassed all the obstacles placed by the Spanish government. Now, Catalonia faces its own destiny," said Catalan president Artur Mas, conservative leader of the Democratic Convergence of Catalonia (CDC) party, upon casting his ballot.
Mas has united with left-wing secessionist parties under the banner of the Junts pel Sí (Together for Yes) coalition.
When Spain's central government in Madrid prohibited a referendum on independence for Catalonia, a region of 7.5 million people, Mas called for early elections to provide an effective referendum on whether to secede. If secessionists win 68 seats in Catalonia's 135 member parliament, located in Barcelona, they will take the majority as a mandate to leave Spain by 2017.
Spain's central government, meanwhile, vows to fight any attempt at independence.
The Guardian is live-blogging the election.