Helper of democracy

Steffi Schmitt is an election assistant for the Bundestag election. She bears a lot of responsibility, because even small mistakes have big consequences. 

Wahlhelferin
dpa

This year is the third time I’ve been an election assistant. Two years ago I helped with the municipal elections in Bonn; then with the state elections in North Rhine-Westphalia.

The first time I was very nervous, because as secretary I had a lot of responsibility. As a member of the electoral board I had to ensure that no mistakes and no manipulations occurred. I had to check every voter, whether his or her ID card matched the entries in the electoral roll and tick off every person who came to the polling station. The list has to be kept very carefully, because if you have more votes than ticks it’s considered an irregularity.

Steffi Schmitt is an election assistant for the Bundestag election
Steffi Schmitt is an election assistant for the Bundestag election privat

The elections I’ve seen as a helper have been very different. The municipal election, in which candidates are elected to city offices, was very quiet, with low voter turnout. The state election looked very different; there were a lot of voters at our polling station. I think the voter turnout will also be very high in the Bundestag election.

I think voter turnout will be very high.

Election assistant Steffi Schmitt

The elections I’ve seen as a helper have been very different. The municipal election, in which candidates are elected to city offices, was very quiet, with low voter turnout. The state election looked very different; there were a lot of voters at our polling station. I think the voter turnout will also be very high in the Bundestag election.

 

The helpers are divided into two shifts. After the polling stations close at six pm, we all gather in the polling office for the counting. The electoral board is responsible for everything being counted correctly. Normally, we need about two hours till we can report the result to the electoral office. It can get somewhat hectic – we want to count quickly, but also to make no mistakes. If at the end the number of votes doesn’t match the number of voters who came to the polling station, we have to count again.

The secret ballot in Germany

Most voters know exactly how things should be done. What is sometimes a problem are parents who take their children with them into the voting booth. I can understand that they want to explain to them how you vote and how democracy in Germany works. But children who can already read may not enter the voting booth because Germany has a secret ballot. We then give the parents an invalidly marked ballot. They can use it to show the children how voting works.

Protocol: Isabelle Mittermeier

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