West Java’s polling stations lack of health protocol requirements

A patient, who had been tested positive for Covid-19 and was undergoing a self isolation, casted his ballot without using a glove. This incident happened in Mekar Jaya subdistrict in Sukmajaya, Depok city, when election officers from polling station (TPS) 52 visited the patient’s house. The patient only wore a medical mask. Head of the local poll administrators, I Gede Dwi, admitted that the team forgot to provide gloves.

“We should have given him gloves, but we were in a hurry so we forgot to bring it,” Gede told Jaring.id on Wednesday, December 9, 2020.

Based on the health protocol prepared by the General Election Commission (KPU), officers should check the voters’ body temperature, give them masks, remind them to wash hands thoroughly before the voters exercise their rights. The treatment for self-isolated patients, however, is different from this standard procedure conducted at polling stations.

According to Gede, the officers were only trained about simulation of technical procedures of voting at the polling stations, but they had yet to fully understand about the procedures of visiting self-isolated patients to help them vote at home. This has never been exemplified in a simulation. Therefore, it could be difficult for them to handle unpredictable situations.

For example, Covid-19 patients should conduct the voting outside their house. However, Gede said, it was difficult to obey this procedure because the patients’ family asked the voting to be carried out inside the house.

In addition, the officer could not force the patients to use form C to enable them to represent the voting to their healthy family members or to the officers.

“At first, the family promised us to come to the polling station. But suddenly they notified us through WhatsApp that they could not come and instead asked us to go to their house and pick up the votes. We should serve them, of course” he said.

The ballots casted by self-isolated patients were also collected together with the ballots from other voters in the same box. Gede ensured that the vote counting would be safe because the ballot boxes were sprayed with disinfectant, and the officers handling the ballots wore gloves.

However, the supervisor at the polling station in TPS 52 did not join other officers to pick up the votes from the self-isolated patients. He argued that the Depok City Election Supervisory Agency (Bawaslu) did not equip officers with personal protective equipment, such as hazmat suits. He was only provided with gloves, masks and face shields.

“The risk could be very high. I don’t want to take the risk,” the supervisor said.

The witnesses from the candidates, who joined the team in picking up the votes, also did not wear hazmat suits. They only wore masks. Article 73 of KPU Regulation Number 6 of 2020 concerning the Implementation of Regional Elections regulates that voters who are undergoing isolation due to Covid-19 can be served with their voting rights. The local poll administrators (KPPS) may visit the patient if it is approved by the witness and the Subdistrict Supervisory Committee or the supervisor at the polling station.

West Java Governor, Ridwan Kamil, also highlighted the implementation of health protocol during the 2020 Regional Election. As quoted by suara.com, Kang Emil–as he is fondly called, said that he found some witnesses did not wear the protective equipment when monitoring the voting in Bandung regency on Wednesday, December 9, 2020.

“The local poll administrators all wore protective equipment, including face shields. The witnesses should also be provided with complete equipment,” he said.

By implementing strict health protocol, Emil believed that the potential for the emergence of a new cluster of Covid-19 due to regional election activities could be reduced as low as possible. Bandung Regency has a fairly large number of voters, reaching 2,356,412 people. This figure consists of 1,186,772 male voters and 1,166,640 female voters.

“Bandung Regency has a large number of voters,” said Emil.

Also, with the health protocol being implemented properly, Emil believed that the numbers of community participation would also be high, because people would feel safe and comfortable when they visited the polling station to exercise their voting rights.

“I see that the number of people coming to the polling station is also relatively large. Hopefully, the level participation is also high, in line with the target,” he said.

Alghifari, 27 years old,  who became a witness from the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) in the election of Bandung Regent and Deputy Regent at a polling station in Margahayu Kencana housing complex, in Margahayu Selatan subdistrict, Margahayu District, Bandung Regency, complained about the personal protective equipment at the station. The party only provided him with a letter stating that he was a witness for the candidate pair named H.M. Dadang Supriatna and Sahrul Gunawan.

“No personal protective equipment was provided. There was nothing,” said Agi, when confirmed through a phone call on Wednesday, December 9, 2020.

According to him, both the General Election Commission and the supporting parties should provide the protective equipment for the witnesses, because the witnesses, like all parties involved in the elections, were bound by the KPU Regulation Number 6 of 2020 about health protocol during the election. Article 68 point (d) of the regulation stated that the witnesses and supervisors who were present at the polling stations should wear masks that covered the nose and mouth to chin, as well as disposable gloves. “I brought my own mask,” he said.

Despite not being provided with any personal protection equipment, Agi was still present to monitor the voting process in the polling station. He admitted that he had pocketed Rp250,000 from the party’s management.

“I’m not afraid (of being infected). I have already undergone a rapid test in my office and I was confirmed negative. Then I also applied health protocols while I was working as the witness,” he explained.

Ujang (not his real name), a resident of Sawah Gede Subdistrict, Cianjur District, along with dozens of his colleagues were canceled from being witnesses for the candidate pair number 1, M. Toha-Ade Sobari, who runs for the election independently (without being nominated by political parties). According to him, there had been no clarity regarding the honorarium and personal protective equipment from the candidate’s supporting team.

“Even if there is no honorarium, they should have provided at least  masks and other protectors. How could they ask us to go to the polling station amidst this pandemic situation, where there were flocks of people, without providing any protective equipment. Of course, I’m afraid,” Ujang said when contacted by telephone.

Witnesses from candidate pair 1 and 2 in the 2020 Regional Election in Cianjur were absent in a number of polling stations (TPS). Candidate pair number 1 is M Toha-Ade Sobari, who were the independent candidates, and candidate number 2 is Oting Zaenal Mutaqin-Wawan Setiawan, who were supported by the Gerindra Party and the Democratic Party.

Hadi Cahyadi (35), head of the polling station TPS 30 in Nagrak Village, Cianjur District, confirmed that there were no witnesses from candidate pair 1 and 2. “Yes, no witness from both candidate pairs. We were waiting for them until the voting time ended, but none of them came,” he said.

This article is the result of collaboration between Jaring.id and Suara.com. In the 2020 Regional Election, we focus on producing news related to the implementation of health protocols during the voting.

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