In three weeks, the Second Chamber elections, for the first time in a three-day version, will be on 15, 16 and 17 March. The coronapandemic forced municipalities to change their normal roadmap. Most places now seem well prepared, although uncertainties remain.
For example, tests involving over 70 people show that postvoting is more complicated than expected, it is unclear what the days for risk groups look like, the approach of municipalities differs from one another and there are not enough volunteers and polls everywhere. The fact that there is still ambiguity is not strange. This year, things are quite different from previous elections.
Minister Ollongren of the Interior said in October last year that at least 70,000 volunteers would be needed, a quarter more than usual. By now, there are at least 76,000 applications. But whether each municipality has received enough applications is still unclear. Two weeks ago, 230 municipalities out of a total of 352 municipalities were already the case.
Also, 245 municipalities say they have enough voting locations, according to data from the Ministry of Internal Affairs. “Preparations are running smoothly”, says a spokesman. “Over 11,000 voting locations are expected to be available during the three days. This will keep the number of voting locations up compared to the 2017 elections.”
In large Dutch municipalities there are still questions about the elections. “The curfew and the reopening of primary schools make it very likely that polling stations will fall off in the coming weeks and need to be added. A curfew during the elections also raises the question of how all voting counters should go home,” says a spokesman for the municipality of Utrecht.
Five hundred volunteers are still being searched for in The Hague. 2250 more polling stations are deployed than usual.
Den Bosch is still working on the details. “What makes it difficult is that you dont know how people are going to vote. Are they going to vote in the mail? Do they go on Monday or Wednesday? Many scenarios have to be taken into account, while some will never happen,” says a spokesman. “It can be overlooked for people who work on a daily basis, but I hope it can also be seen for the voters.”
Do not check
The first two voting days are extra this year. “Those days are mainly intended for voters from risk groups,” says a spokesman for Home Affairs. “But municipalities and polling stations are not going to check that. Any voter entering the polling room may vote.” The Ministry conducted a survey of voters in January in which more than half of the voters reported voting on Wednesday.
What are you voting for in the election anyway? CCEit on 3 explains it in this video:
A while ago several small trials were carried out with seniors and mentally limited people, organized by Corry Baak of healthcare institution Ipse de Bruggen and Jacob van Foreest van Leer Zelf Online. The trial for ten people with mental disabilities went well. “It was a successful day, with a number of minor setbacks that can be resolved,” says Baak.
The trial with postal votes for twelve seniors didnt go well. More than half of the votes would be declared invalid during the real elections. For example, signatures were misplaced and the envelopes used incorrectly. “In fact, everyone was very confident, maybe that was also part of why things went wrong,” says Van Foreest. “There really need to be improvements before the elections.”
He wonders if the postal vote has been tested. “With some things I think: you cant assume that older people just know this. For example, the drop-off points: some letters say they should look it up online, but then they dont understand where.”
The Ministry did investigate the letter votes. This small study, among twelve people over 70, also concluded that the elderly do not read all the instructions in detail. “There is a potential risk that actions are overlooked,” can be read in the research report.
Van Foreest proposes to improve communication. He also recommends giving the envelopes different colors or sizes when posting, or writing down the instructions numberwise. Van Foreest will pass on his recommendations to the Ministry of Interior this week. But if its on time, he doesnt know. “Im afraid that the instruction and envelopes can no longer be adjusted. If thats the case, I hope the government will be committed to communication. That is really necessary.”
If things are improved, this is only good, says the municipality of Den Bosch. As long as there is not too much adjustment. “We getas a municipality very much for our molars. I hope we dont get any more last-minute new rules. Then we can focus on those final details.”