stemlokaal c-hal tweede kamerverkiezingen 2017 (5)

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11:20 a.m. – Polak Building polling station – 71 ballots dropped

“‘De meeste dromen zijn bedrog’ (‘Most dreams are an illusion’, Dutch pop song) by Marco!!” yells the chair of the polling station Annekris van der Feer. Outside, her fellow electoral official is making all sorts of gestures. To their colleagues’ amusement. “We play charades to kill time when we don’t have anyone to help,” explains Van der Feer.

Van der Feer works as a municipal official for several district teams of the Municipality of Rotterdam. She has ‘adopted’ the polling station in the Polak Building together with colleagues from the district teams unit. They’re having a nice day on campus – although it’s pretty quiet. “During previous elections, you’d have some 900 voters coming to campus. At this rate, we’re not getting anywhere near that total. Right now, the counter stands at 71.”

Polak stemmen – 2
Image credit: Marko de Haan

The pavement in front of the entrance on Erasmus Plaza has been marked off with tape: 1.5-m sections for the voters in case it gets busy. But so far there hasn’t been any need for social distancing. “Normally, students would cast their vote in-between lectures, for example. On top of this, they’ve set up a lot more polling stations in Rotterdam this year, to spread out the voters.”

Every once in a while, someone comes in to cast his or her vote. “People are doing their best to abide by the measures.” The voters are carefully guided through the procedure by the polling officials: “Please wait by the line for a moment”; “This is where you can disinfect your hands”. Checking the voter’s identity: “Could you take off your face mask for a second?”

The voters exit the station via the rear of the building – with a newly acquired red pencil. An Erasmus University staff member emerges through the sliding doors. He says that ‘due to eczema complaints’ he doesn’t have to adhere to the measures. His review of the polling officials: “normal, friendly people”. Which party got his vote? “Forum, on account of Covid.”

1:15 p.m. – RSC/RVSV polling station – 566 ballots dropped

The queue in front of the RSC/RVSV polling station is replete with flared jeans, white Reeboks and slicked back hair. “Hey, Char! Do you have to bring along your own pen? No, right?” asks one constituent. The mood’s friendly, although some voters feel a kind of ‘low-key’ tension. “For quite a few people, this will be the first time they vote,” says the station chair, student Jos Hoogerwerf (24). “They’ve taken the opportunity to turn it into a house outing.”

“It’s hard work,” says Hoogerwerf, who’s just taking a break. “I was working at City Hall yesterday, where we had a total of 300 votes during the day. That already kept you pretty busy, but here it has been 566 so far in one afternoon – in other words, on a different scale altogether.”

stembureau RSCRVSV
Image credit: Marko de Haan

The RSC/RVSV board members are happy to see some activity at their hall again. “Finally, a proper chance to set up something,” says a smiling Pita Elhorst. As president of RSC/RVSV, Elhorst was already up and about at 4 a.m., welcoming the people who delivered the voting booth. And this evening, she’ll be there too when they come to pick it up again. “The Municipality had approached us because they were looking for large rooms for the stations.” This is the first time people can cast their vote at the student association. “We didn’t mind opening one of our banqueting halls for the occasion.”

Electoral officials Daphne Veltien and Kati Hartman, both 19 and RSC/RVSV members, estimate that some 85 per cent of the voters who use their station are fellow association members. “Or former members,” says Veltien. Hoogerwerf: “We just had a former member who wanted to take a picture of her child in the society hall. She found this a touching idea.” Hartman: “It’s nice to see some familiar faces from the association again – due to Covid, we tend to get together in smaller groups.” It has left her with a taste for more. “We’re hoping that we can soon grab some rays on a cafe terrace again.”

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2:03 p.m. – Erasmus University College polling station – 605 ballots dropped

At the polling station at the EUC building on Nieuwemarkt, the team are processing one vote after the other. The station chair, who is deftly keeping the line moving forward, doesn’t really have time to chat. “Could you take off your face mask for a sec? Thank you very much! Now all I have to do is scan your poll card… Approved. Great!” And on to the next… The machine has a slight hiccup when one of the voters turns out to have dual citizenship. “Can he use a Greek ID to vote?” Yep! On to the next…

Outside, one of the election officials who’s acting as a hostess has more time to talk. She tries to interact personally with each voter, if only for a moment. “For many people, this is a great opportunity to finally see this building from the inside,” says a smiling Jeannette Baljeu. Like a professional tour guide, she can even share a few fun facts about the building: “Did you know it was built in 1923? It used to be a public library, and after that an education museum.”

stemmen EUC
Image credit: Marko de Haan

Baljeu is a former Vice Mayor of Rotterdam and is currently serving as a member of the Provincial Executive of Zuid-Holland. “But I’m doing this in a private capacity, and I’m not on the list of candidates. So then it isn’t an issue. It’s important that this process runs smoothly – particularly now, with Covid going on. Which is why I wanted to do my bit.” The election officials are closely monitoring local turnouts. “We use an app to record how busy it is at each station. Voters can refer to this app when deciding where they want to cast their vote,” says Baljeu. “City Hall and the public library are even busier, so a lot of people come here instead.”

It’s also why the young Greek-Dutch voter, who turns out to be an EUC student, has come here. He lives in Lucia, the EUC student complex on Stadhuisplein. “It was incredibly busy at City Hall, so I decided to vote at EUC. It has been a while since I was last here.” His vote went to PvdA. “They’re good on healthcare and the environment, but still realistic. Left wing, but not in an extreme way.”