The side job:  – Mirthe helps count

‘I always thought that this work was only for older people.'
Since moving to Wageningen, I have been doing this work each election.’ Photo Guy Ackermans

Who: Mirthe Gijsbers
What: Electoral committee member
Why: You get outside your own bubble
Hourly wage: about €12 (volunteer allowance)

You’ve got to make ends meet somehow. We can all borrow from Uncle DUO, but there are also students who earn money from unusual side jobs, like Mirthe Gijsbers (24), Nutrition and Health Bachelor’s student. Mirthe enjoys more trust from the public than a voting computer: she works as an electoral committee member during elections.

‘In every election, you need people who support and monitor the voting process at the polling station. Since I started living in Wageningen, I’ve been doing this work each election. Previously I helped at the polling stations in the Forum and café Onder de Linden. You work from seven in the morning until about one at night. Around nine in the evening the polling stations close and you help count the votes. Before you can do this work, you need to take an e-learning module about the rules of the voting process.

I enjoy it up to about five in the afternoon, but counting gets really boring after a while

There are always three polling station members working at the same time who each have their own task. The first person checks the voting pass and the passport. The second person checks the name isn’t on a blacklist. This list includes people who have passed away, for example. The third person checks whether the voters put the ballot paper into the box correctly.’

‘I always thought that this work was only for older people. But I learned from a housemate that young people also do it. Anyone older than 18 can sign up for it. I really enjoy it up to about five in the afternoon. Last year, my colleagues were two older men. I chatted with them at great length, whereas in my daily life I wouldn’t get into a conversation with them so easily. But counting gets boring after a while. We first sort the ballots by party and then by person. When everything is sorted, we count the number of votes in pairs. The whole process is transparent: any citizen can come and watch during the counting. Two citizens did come once, but after 15 minutes they got bored and left. I’ll probably stop doing this work when I get a fulltime job. But maybe I’ll come back when I retire!’

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