- To objectively observe the election process in The Netherlands.
- To advise election officials on the results of the observation for the improvement of the electoral practice
- To support these election bodies with constructive feedback on areas of concern so that they may consider remedial action.
The elections, based on the sample of 53 polling stations we observed, were very well run by elections staff. Our observation team, in the vast majority of cases, were impressed by the conduct of staff throughout polling day.
Family Voting was identified by our observers at 26% (14 of 53) of polling stations. Family Voting is the practice by which one member of a family influences or guides another on the way to cast their vote and is described by the OSCE/ODIHR as an ‘unacceptable practice’.
Whilst overall cases of family voting were low, Democracy Volunteers would encourage a proactive approach by staff to prevent such occurrences taking place which did occur in some cases, though not always. Indeed, on some occasions, staff did intercede to prevent it.
Generally, our observers were greeted warmly by elections staff wherever they visited polling stations and counting. The team also held constructive meetings with interlocutors, such as election administrators and political parties, in the days preceding polling day.
In total, the observation team attended 53 polling stations across 14 municipalities.
Conclusions and Recommendations
Overall, the observer team was extremely impressed with the very well-run elections conducted in the polling stations we attended. Voting was open and accessible to voters and the number of provisions put in place to give independent access to voters with disabilities was impressive. Polling stations are large and busy venues and staff are welcoming and efficient in processing voters. Like all elections, however, there are some challenges in the electoral process that we feel would benefit from consideration by national and local authorities at legislative and administrative levels.
The Netherlands is an advanced, inclusive, and engaged democracy with high voter engagement in its elections with active debate and robust party activity.
R1: Removal of ‘On-Demand’ Proxy Voting
One aspect of the electoral process which continues to be troubling to our observer team was the number of votes cast by proxy at these elections. Prior to the election, the temporary measure which allowed each voter to act as a proxy for up to three other electors at elections the previous year, was reduced back to two. However, proxy voting presents many challenges for both the secrecy and equality of the vote. Although a convenient alternative to voting in-person for many voters, this voting methodology is open to potential vote farming, buying, and the possibility that the proxy does not vote in the way to voter intended. This issue has been previously highlighted as an area for concern by both Democracy Volunteers in 2019 and at a number of elections by the OSCE .
At these elections our observer teams also recorded the gender of those casting proxies at polling stations. Our data collected by our observer team in 2022 showed that 61% of those acting as proxies were male, with just 39% being cast by females, showing that this methodology of voting can be a gendered process, with men more likely to be acting as proxies. Democracy Volunteers is concerned that this may represent an indication of Family Voting and leaves the voting process open to undue influence, coercion, and intimidation.