Some 60,000 EU nationals have registered to vote in the Netherlands in the EU elections on May 23, but DutchNews.nl is aware of dozens of cases in which people were unaware they needed to sign up and are now disenfranchised.
In total, 400,000 European adults live in the Netherlands and would have been eligible to vote here.
According to the home affairs ministry, registration has been a legal requirement since 1999 but several potential voters say they have always voted in the EU elections, without ever signing a register. Registration is not required to vote in the local or waterboard elections.
The ministry wrote to every local council in December, telling them to brief EU residents on the need to register to vote and advising them to actively contact people by letter.
But Haarlem, Gouda, Heerlen, Roermond and Amersfoort are among the towns and cities where people say they did not get any form of communication from city hall.
‘I never received any reminder/mail from Haarlem … therefore I missed registering! Needless to say I am really angry. Seems I am not only one,’ one reader said.
‘By the time I reached out (wondering why I didn’t get the letter) it was too late,’ said another. ‘Along with the fact that none of the political parties ever acknowledges expats (our contribution, our perspective, our particular situation) it really just makes me feel like I have no voice. And I really am a fully integrated, engaged, active member of Dutch society.’
Several readers have also been sent voting forms by their country of origin as well as the Netherlands, meaning that technically they could vote twice – which would be illegal.
There was a lot of confusion prior to the April 9 deadline about whether British nationals would be able to vote because of Brexit, leading Amsterdam and The Hague to update their websites.
And several people have come forward saying they have never been required to register in the past. ‘I thought that if you are registered with your local gemeente then you didn’t have to register to vote? I haven’t registered to vote and yet have received my voting certificate for the 23rd,’ one EU national said on Facebook.
At least one member of the DutchNews.nl team has always voted in the EU elections but has never registered before. A spokeswoman for the home affairs ministry told DutchNews.nl that our question about not being required to register in previous elections is a ‘misunderstanding’. ‘
The current rules also applied in earlier EU elections,’ she said. As after every election, there will be a full evaluation of the problems, she said.