Young people step up as poll workers in wake of 2019 election deaths

Due to the strenuous work, over 5,000 poll workers fell ill and nearly 900 died in the 2019 elections, an unprecedented toll in Indonesia’s election history.

Radhiyya Indra

Radhiyya Indra

The Jakarta Post


A local poll administrator (KPPS) helps an elderly voter put a ballot paper into a ballot box during a 2024 election voting simulation in Boyolali, Central Java on Dec. 27, 2023. PHOTO: ANTARA/ THE JAKARTA POST

January 17, 2024

JAKARTA As the simultaneous presidential and legislative elections on Feb. 14 get nearer, more young people are volunteering as poll administrators (KPPS) to ease the burden of older volunteers in the light of the deaths of hundreds of poll workers in the previous elections in 2019.

Due to the strenuous work, over 5,000 poll workers fell ill and nearly 900 died in the 2019 elections, an unprecedented toll in Indonesia’s election history. Most of those who died in 2019 ranged from 50 to 70 years of age and had accompanying health conditions such as diabetes and hypertension, and high levels of cholesterol.

The tragedy prompted the General Elections Commission (KPU) to introduce a maximum age limit and stricter health requirements for people applying to be poll administrators this year. Applicants must be aged from 17 to 55 years and undergo health checkups and present a medical letter that includes their blood pressure, as well as blood sugar and cholesterol levels.

This appeared to attract more younger people to apply for the paid volunteering jobs.

“Most of the people that became poll administrators in my area are young,” said Fiorina Fahmayani, a 21-year-old resident of Surabaya, East Java.

Compared with her time volunteering in 2019, Fiorina has sensed a “regeneration” in the field as the previous older generation has now been replaced by people around her age.

With the same minimum age limit of 17 years old as the previous elections, the KPU has shared its intention to recruit more university students.

“It might also have something to do with a growing understanding of politics [in the younger generation],” Fiorina added.

Some 52 percent of the country’s 204 million registered voters are younger than 40. A third of all registered voters are millennials, while 22 percent belong to Generation Z.

All KPU municipal and regency offices published their list of successful KPPS applicants late last year and will announce the final lineup of paid volunteers per polling station on Jan. 24, the day before they start their month-long jobs until Feb. 25.

Looking for experience

For 25-year-old Ranni Safitri from Sekupang subdistrict in Batam, Riau Islands, this marks her first time volunteering as a poll administrator, following in the footsteps of her older sister in 2019.

“I want to do it for the experience, so I can understand how the process works from the casting of the ballot to them being counted at the polling stations and sent away [to KPU] central office in Jakarta,” she said, adding that the pay was also good for her.

Poll administrators this year will receive Rp 1.1 million (US$70.79) for their work, more than double the amount that the volunteers got in 2019.

“Perhaps older people had no other choice but to keep volunteering [in previous years] because the younger generation was not as incentivized to do so given the fairly low pay at the time,” Ranni said.

Step up for older people

But the biggest reason they volunteered was due to concerns over the older generation’s health, with many believing it is their time now to ease that burden.

“After I applied for this election, many asked me: ‘Are you not afraid of the death toll in the 2019 elections?’ But I have no concerns,” said Rafikar Ramsi, a 26-year-old successful applicant from Pamulang, South Tangerang.

After volunteering for the same job in the 2020 South Tangerang mayoral election, Rafikar was invited by the village head to participate again this year. And like other young people in his area, he decided to apply.

“It’s our time now as youngsters to lead the pack for this year’s elections. Not to mention that it’s also fun to work with your neighbors of the same age,” Rafikar said.

He added that the village head in his area recruited mostly people from age 23 to 30, knowing that it would be harder work compared with the 2020 regional election.

“Previously, we only counted the ballots until late in the afternoon. But presidential and legislative elections could take our time, all the way into the night,” Rafikar added, hence the need for a healthier lineup of volunteers.

Fiorina shared a similar sentiment, adding that she worked up until the evening during the 2019 elections. She also pointed to a “plus factor” in having the younger generation as volunteers: they are more familiar with technology.

“I had seen in the previous elections that the older poll administrators in my area in northern Surabaya were not fluent with using technology to sort files, for example,” she said, costing them a good amount of time.

With more people of her age, Ranni hoped that there would be no more chaos in the February elections.

“We youngsters are fitter and healthier to pull an all-nighter, anyway,” she said.

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