In coronatijd, the next parliamentary elections are different than you are used to. For example, we can go to the polls on three days: 15, 16 and 17 March. In turn, the people over 70 can vote by letter. And especially this last change is not undisputed, because why can not all vulnerable people vote by letter?
The organisation of this is difficult, says Kajsa Ollongren, demissionary Minister of the Interior. “We cannot identify the other vulnerable people as one group,” explains Ollongren. “For that group, we recommend going to the polling station on Monday or Tuesday. You can also cast three votes of attorney this year, instead of the usual two votes.”
The Animals Party goes to court for the letter votes. Democratic rights are not guaranteed, says party leader Esther Ouwehand. “The question is whether this is possible if you do not make votes by letter available to vulnerable people in the 70.”
Letter voting also carries risks, says Professor of Political Science Carolien van Ham. “People can be influenced more easily, the secrecy of votes is undermined and letters could possibly be lost in the post.”
Ollongren is aware of these dangers: “There is an element of risk in it. Influence can not be ruled out altogether. It is a risk we take because of the circumstances.”
That corona can have an impact on the election results, proved last November. In the municipal reclassification elections, 10 percent of voters stayed away because of the virus, as was shown by Ollongren‘s own research. “I want to say to that group: there is a way for everyone to vote coronaproof.”
For Ollongren, postponing the elections by Corona is not an option at this time. A handful of mayors want to postpone the elections, but according to the Society of Mayors, there are only 5 of the more than 350. Mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb of Rotterdam, is not waiting for a postponement: “I have the feeling that we are all ready for it.”
Rotterdam had 350 polling stations during the previous parliamentary elections, of which 175 would be too small in coronatijd. It was therefore searched for large spaces, of which the municipality has now found 400. “I’m really impressed,” says Aboutaleb. “There are more polling stations than usual and there is a lot of enthusiasm among people to be a polling station member.”
Aboutaleb has a complaint to Minister Ollongren: “She needs to allocate a little more money for the elections.” It was previously announced that there will be an additional 30 million euros for municipalities for elections, but according to Aboutaleb, this is not enough to reward the large number of volunteers.