The president of a polling place in Luxembourg City had brought his own coffee machine and pastries to support the staff, who are still a bit bleary-eyed. The volunteer polling staff had to be there at 7 am to prepare the ballots (count them and stamp them with the number of the polling station so that no previously stolen ballots could be used or substituted). The ballots have to be counted before the vote and after the vote so that no ballots can be secretly added. There are around 500 registered voters for each polling office. The team, composed of a president, a secretary and three “polling clerks”, all volunteers, also had to decide who did what.
At 7:45 on that grey Sunday morning, the first people were already waiting outside.
There are two copies of the electoral register list for one polling office. The first copy is for the secretary and a clerk, who check the identity of the voter through the summons letter and ID card. The clerk has to shout the name and number of the voter so that the other clerk, who is sitting in front of the poll booths, can also cross them off his list. This double check ensures that no voter can vote twice, and to verify that the number of ballots corresponds to the number of voters. At moments, the polling station is quite loud, one can hear the next polling office clerk shouting other numbers and names, people chatter outside, and voters wish the clerks a happy Sunday. Numbers and names have to be repeated.
In and out of the booth
The president hands out the ballot papers, and the voters go in to the booth, draw the curtain and fill in the ballot paper. When they have finished, they put it in the box, which is locked. A clerk makes sure that the voters don’t drop anything else in the ballot box.
Some people are very nervous before they go in to vote. They are fidgety, and in the booth, the first thing one hears is the metallic rattle of the chain which holds the pencil. Some voters stay in the booth for a good while, others are literally in and out. Below the curtain, one can see legs crossing, or legs stood far apart in power mode, and sometimes children’s legs who accompany their parents to the polling station. Dogs have also been welcomed in the booths.
A few voters explain excitedly that it is their first time, and ask again whether they can vote for more than a party list. The clerks or the president explain the two possibilities. Others rush in, disappear behind the curtain and then drop the paper confidently into the box. Many leave with a relieved or a satisfied look on their face.
There are certain rush times, and people have to wait, which they do patiently.
The voting process goes smoothly; there is no disturbance. Most voters are extremely polite and wish the clerks good luck for the rest of the day for the vote counting. They know that they will probably be sitting there until the evening.
At 2 pm, the polling stations close for the public
The doors close behind each office. Afterwards, the clerks have a bite to eat, before they check that their two copies of the electoral register for their polling office match. They finally open the ballot box and empty it. Then, the papers are counted, and added to the unused ballots to check the numbers fit the initial count.
The ballots are first sorted by blank, invalid, party lists and panachage votes. In total, that makes 11 different piles of ballot papers. In the capital, there were 820 blank votes, 1,422 invalid votes in total. The unused ballots are destroyed.
The room looks full of ballot papers.
The clerks have a huge table which lists the 208 candidates that are on the ballot in Luxembourg City. There are two copies of this list; again to check that votes are counted correctly. First the party votes are added; if 11 voters just voted for a whole party, then every candidate receives 11 votes. This bit is relatively easy. Then come the panachage votes. Here, a clerk reads out aloud the votes cast on each ballot paper, and whether it’s one or two votes for a candidate. This is where mistakes can easily be made, and therefore the second control check is very important. Two clerks are responsible for each list, so there is actually checked times 4. After 5 votes for one candidate, one of the two clerks says “full” and the other must agree; otherwise there is a recount.
The secretary must write a report, and register all the non-voters and voters separately on a list.
The president has to fill in the final votes for each candidate and each party on an official list, and he then has to take all the ballot papers in a sealed bag to the central polling station on Kirchberg. By this time, it’s already past 8 pm. Here, they will be compiled to add up the results of all the offices and polling stations. In the days afterwards, the central polling station must verify and officialise the final results, due to come out on Thursday or Friday.