“This is an unusual election in an unusual time,” says a municipal spokesperson. The General Elections are planned on 15, 16 and 17 March and vote counting in Ahoy on 18 March must be completely coronavirus-proof. “That takes a lot of organisation. We are calling on students to help in the elections. This time, we are relying on them more than ever.”

Why students? Firstly, the municipality needs a lot more people to staff the polling stations. “For elections without coronavirus, the municipality needs around six thousand people to ensure that everything runs smoothly, but now we need ten thousand,” says the spokesperson. This is because more polling stations will be open on 17 March than in normal elections and forty polling stations will also open on 15 and 16 March for vulnerable people. We also have a bigger reserve pool, because we expect more people to drop out due to coronavirus-related symptoms.

Drive-thru voting lanes and screens

Student associations have already confirmed that they will provide support, says the municipal spokesperson. The election team from the municipality has also contacted universities of applied sciences, institutes of secondary vocational education and universities in Rotterdam and is asking them to distribute flyers and messages. The municipality is hopeful. “Every year, we get a lot of help from students, which we really appreciate. This year we are hoping and relying on them to provide on a bit more,” says the spokesperson.

The team of organisers is doing everything to ensure that the elections are run in a completely coronavirus-proof way. “We are making everything as safe as possible for everyone, taking all the RIVM guidelines into account. Walk routes, the size of the areas, screens, gloves, facemasks. We’ve thought of everything.” This year, the municipality is also installing special ‘drive-thru voting lanes’. “These are lanes that you drive through, like when you go for a coronavirus test. There will be one in Rotterdam-Noord and another in Feyenoord.”

As always, everyone who applies and turns up will be paid. Particularly for students, this is good money. “Although the amount varies per role and per shift. All the details are on our website: www.mijnstembureau.nl,” the municipal spokesperson explains.