Voting papers arrive late abroad, on time on islands

THE HAGUE–The late or non-arrival of voting papers of Dutch voters abroad has raised concerns. Democratic Party D66 candidate Eelco Keij is taking action and D66 Member of the Second Chamber Sjoerd Sjoerdsma is seeking clarity from the Dutch Government. The voting papers arrived timely in the Dutch Caribbean.

The ballot papers of those persons, entitled to vote in the March 15 Second Chamber elections residing in Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten, and who have pre-registered, have arrived in time on the islands and were distributed this week, The Daily Herald was officially informed.

Registered voters in the Dutch Caribbean countries could also opt to pick up the ballots at the Dutch Representation offices on their island in either Oranjestad (VNO), Willemstad (VNW) or Philipsburg (VNP). The completed ballots must be handed in at these locations no later than March 15, at 3:00pm. Eligible to vote are Dutch citizens who have resided in the Netherlands for ten years or more.

Though they are very limited in total, the number of registered voters in the Dutch Caribbean countries has increased these elections. The biggest increase was in Curaçao where the number of registered voters went up from 809 in the previous Second Chamber elections in 2012 to 1,045 this year.

In Aruba, 517 persons registered this year compared to 315 four-and-a-half years ago. St. Maarten has the lowest number of registered Dutch voters: 166, a mere increase of 40 in comparison with the 122 in 2012. Voters in Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba with the Dutch nationality don’t have to register, because the islands are Dutch public entities.

Throughout the world, more Dutch citizens have registered for the upcoming elections: 77,500 this year versus 48,000 almost five years ago. According to D66 candidate Keij, a “voting fiasco” is looming for these voters, because many voting documents have been sent to them too late.

Keij sounded the alarm bell late last month when it became clear that many voters hadn’t received their voting documents as yet, while the deadline to vote had been reset to March 1 for several countries. For 23 embassies, as well as the Dutch Representation offices in the Dutch Caribbean, the deadline has been set at March 15.

On February 24, Keij’s campaign team launched a world map where Dutch voters throughout the world could indicate whether they had received their voting documents or not. “We now see a perfect storm,” said candidate Keij, who champions the voting rights of Dutch citizens abroad.

Of the 77,500 voters who registered for this year’s elections, about 65,000 will vote through a voting letter. Of this number, some 40,000 indicated they wanted to receive their voting documents via email. These voters have been sent the voting documents, including the return envelope in January and February, according to the voting bureau The Hague which coordinates the votes from abroad.

Some 21,000 voters indicated they wanted to receive the ballot through the regular mail. The voting documents could only be sent to these persons after the Electoral Council had gone through the process of establishing the candidates list and the voting ballot mid-February. Immediately after, on February 21, the booklets with the candidates and ballot paper were mailed.

The voting bureau in The Hague has received many questions from concerned citizens abroad who fear that they will not receive the voting documents in time. Member of Parliament (MP) Sjoerdsma has submitted a series of questions to Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk to inquire about the process, the delay, the consequences thereof, and what the Minister intended to do to prevent a similar situation in the future.

“Is it correct that the last voting papers should have been sent on February 7, but that this became February 24? Do you agree that the voting right is one of the fundamental rights of our democracy? Why then haven’t you managed in the past four-and-a -half years to set up the organisation in such a way that the voting rights of Dutch people abroad isn’t jeopardised,” asked Sjoerdsma.

“The voting process is already outdated and slow, but because of the very high number of registrations this year, and the delay in sending the voting documents from The Hague, things may go very wrong this time. Dutch citizens should be able to exercise their voting right, wherever they are,” said candidate Keij.

Keij is planning a court injunction against the Dutch State. He demands that voting documents that have been mailed on March 15, due to the late delivery to the voters, are still accepted. With his campaign slogan “For Dutch people abroad,” Keij hopes to secure at least 16,000 preferential votes to earn him an instant seat in the Second Chamber.



Source: The Daily Herald