The mission deployed 6 observers in three teams of two. These were registered with The Netherlands’s Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations. These six observers were accredited to observe across The Netherlands. They made 62 separate observations across eight municipalities. This allowed the observer team to also assess four separate Provinces; North Holland, South Holland, Utrecht and Gelderland. The municipalities and the number of observations were:
- Amsterdam: 14
- Arnhem: 6
- Delft: 2
- Leiden: 8
- Nijmegen: 6
- Rotterdam: 10
- The Hague: 5
- Utrecht: 11
All observers received a written and verbal briefing in advance of the deployment. Each observation was conducted in pairs to allow for objective observation and the observers then agreed their opinions of the electoral process before submitting data. The observations generally took between thirty and forty-five minutes per polling station, with the observers asked to ensure that they saw the entire process, which included staff greeting electors on arrival at the polling station. This happened on every occasion.
The organisation of polling stations was extremely well run across the area of observation. Voters could clearly see how to access voting and staff were trained to manage the process. Polls were generally open from 8am to 9pm, though some at train stations opened at 7.30am. The teams were asked to observe an opening as well as a closing of a polling station and tour polling stations throughout the day.
Counting began almost immediately, based in the polling stations, before results were transmitted to the central count for checking. The team also attended three of the central counting pilots on the Thursday morning, in The Hague, Rotterdam and Zoetermeer.
Our observer team and electoral experts met with a number of professional and political interlocutors whilst in The Netherlands and we have also included some of the feedback on these meetings in our conclusions.
There are six areas that the observer team felt that the Dutch authorities should consider further action following the observation on 20th March. They were:
- Accessibility to Polling in the Netherlands
- Proxy Voting
- The Ballot Paper
- Central Counting
- Dual Elections
In total the team of six observers have made twenty recommendations on possible ways to improve the electoral process in The Netherlands. These can be found in detail in the attached report.
Commenting on the observation, Director of Democracy Volunteers, Dr John Ault said,
‘We would like to thank the Dutch authorities for their welcome to observe the election and the manner in which we were greeted across The Netherlands on polling day.
‘The election was extremely well run but some challenges are still evident in the electoral process. We always assess accessibility issues and this has become even more important in the Netherlands as 100% of polling stations are now expected to be accessible.
‘We also raise concerns over the extent of proxy voting, as previously reported by the OSCE/ODIHR as well as two elections, with different electoral boundaries, being conducted on the same day.
‘However, once again, our main concern is the ongoing issue concerning the ballot paper and all the impacts it has on the electoral process. We have made a recommendation for further pilots, along the lines of the Finnish model, to see if that can alleviate some of the stresses in the Dutch electoral system.’