On Wednesday, municipal elections (as well as a referendum) were held in the Netherlands. Each time I vote in this country, I fall deeper in love with the place. I may in fact announce that very thought at the polling station when I vote (and on social media just so I can spread the love around). Why do I get embarrassingly excited every time elections roll around? Because I believe voting is essential in maintaining a democratic society, and the Dutch, ever pragmatic, make it easy for everyone to vote. How, you ask? Let me count the ways:
Registering to vote. Citizens and residents of the Netherlands do not need to register to vote. If you are registered in any municipality in the Netherlands, you automatically receive a stempas (voting pass). This pass, along with an accepted form of identification, is all you need to vote. The identification can actually be expired – as long as it did not expire more than five years ago.
Confusing ballots. The parliamentary election of 2017 saw an unbelievable increase in the number of political parties participating in the election. Something like 26 political parties were on the ballot! Talk about confusing. So, what did the government do? They printed out the ballot in advance and sent it to voters with the stempas.
Convenient polling stations. As long as you have your voting pass and ID, you can vote at any polling station. Obviously, with regard to the municipality elections, you need to vote in your own municipality. But with the nationwide parliamentary elections, you can wherever you want. And there are some seriously cool voting locations! There are trams and boats, fancy hotels, train stations, and even the parliament itself. I was running around like a crazed chicken on Wednesday and ended up voting at the train station. Talk about convenient!
Long hours at polling stations. The polls are open from 7:30 a.m. until 9 p.m. in the Netherlands. You have to have a pretty crazy day to not be able to fit voting into your schedule with those opening hours. With one polling station per 1,700 Dutch voters, you’re bound to find a polling station open near wherever you find yourself on election day.
Voting for non-citizens. Naturally, EU citizens can vote in various elections in any EU country. But what about permanent residents? Don’t they have something to say as well? Sure! Even if you’re not a Dutch citizen, you can vote in the municipal elections. You just need a valid residence permit and to have lived in the Netherlands for a minimum of five years.
This, folks, is how you ensure 81,9% of eligible voters get their butts to the polls!