Roy Kemmers, who is doing a PhD in sociology of culture at the Erasmus University College, and history student Demi Bosters are both volunteers. Why did they sign up to staff a polling station? “It’s nice to be able to help out. And since they particularly called on young people to sign up, I felt called upon,” says Bosters. For his part, Kemmers added: “It’s important that this go well. If I can do anything to make sure that happens, I’ll be happy to do so.”
Kemmers and Bosters are both fascinated with politics. Bosters is a member of the Young Democrats (D66’s youth wing), while Kemmers is conducting doctoral research on why people vote for populist parties. “The first time I was on a polling station committee, in 2014, I expected to be able to make some observations – to see angry people, or people with a lot of opinions. But actually it’s kind of boring. People really don’t want to tell anyone who they voted for.”
Instant noodles and hand sanitiser
“I think I partly got interested in politics because of my family,” says Bosters. “We tend to have massive political discussions at the dinner table. I really enjoyed discussing politics in our civics classes at secondary school.”
Staffing a polling station is a welcome activity outside the house at a time when most people are glued to their computers. “I’m seriously looking forward to it,” Bosters says, smiling. “It will be a nice change from sitting in front of my laptop, staring at Zoom.” It’s the first time she will serve as an election official (and also the first time she gets to vote for the Lower House). She will do so in the city where she was raised: Roosendaal.
This year, the municipal government is not just giving its polling station staff instant soup, instant noodles and other types of food to help them get through the day. “Hand sanitiser, face masks for voters, surgical face masks for polling station staff, shields, designated walking routes,” says Kemmers. “Every voter will be given a pencil of their own. Voting booths must be cleaned once every half hour.” Voting is a little like a surgical procedure this year.
This being the case, running a polling station is taking a little more preparation this time, and more rules must be observed than usual. For instance, no more than five voters will be allowed to be inside a polling station at any given time. “It’s a lot more complicated than last time,” says Kemmers, who will chair a polling station committee in the Westland region on the first two days of the elections. “We’ll have to wait and see how things go. I’ll be there on the two quiet days, so that’s a good thing. Generally we try to create a nice vibe inside. I’ll be interested to see if we manage to do that this time round, what with all those face masks.”
Due to the pandemic, a special job title has been created. Polling stations will have ushers, who will be posted at the entrance, keep an eye on the number of people inside and check whether everyone is wearing a mask. Says Bosters: “Basically, I’ll be serving as a bouncer of sorts. That’s the role I’ve been assigned. Yes, I’m a little afraid there will be people who will refuse to put on a mask, but I’m hoping it will be a nice day.”