The Voting Council has advised the Dutch Government to hold the elections for the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament on Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba one day ahead of the elections in The Netherlands. The Voting Council followed up on the observation of the Lt. Governors of the three Dutch public entities that voters in the Caribbean Netherlands may have been influenced by the unofficial results of the September 12 elections in the European part of The Netherlands because the voting bureaus on the islands were still open due to the five hour time difference. Therefore the Voting Council advised in its evaluation that one option is to let the islands vote one day ahead and publish the results the day after. A second option is to have the voting bureaus in the Caribbean Netherlands close at 3:00pm in case the elections take place on the same day as in the European part of The Netherlands. However, the Voting Council prefers the first option.
According to the Voting Council it is feasible to close the voting bureaus earlier because of the limited number of voters. The Legislator, meaning the Second Chamber and the Dutch cabinet, at the time deemed it more important to have a direct counting of the votes in light of the transparency of the election process than the possibly very limited influence that the time difference might have on the election results.
Another important advice of the Voting Council is to lower the number of signatures that a new political party needs in order for it to participate in the elections in the Caribbean Netherlands, voting district 20, from thirty to ten. This mainly has to do with the complaints of several parties about the relatively high number of signatures that are needed whereas the voting district is small with only 12,000 eligible voters. The voters are also spread over a much larger distance than a municipality of the same size in The Netherlands. “This makes it difficult for non-represented parties to acquire the needed thirty support declarations for the candidacy list.” Reducing the required number of signatures to ten would be more in line with the number of declarations that new parties need for the participation in municipal elections in a municipality of up to 20,000 inhabitants. The Voting Council leaves the decision whether to put photos of the candidates and the party logos on the ballot or not up to the Dutch Government. The Lt. Governors had made the observations that voters on their islands preferred to include photos of the candidates on the ballot. This was common before the islands became part of the Dutch Constellation on October 10, 2010. “The Voting Council awaits the outcome of your investigation into a new model ballot whether to take along the possibility of including a photo of the candidates and the party logo,” it was stated in the evaluation advice that was sent to Dutch Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk on November 14.
Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba participated for the first time in the Second Chamber elections on September 12 since they became Dutch public entities. The turn-out was very low on the islands. One of the main reasons for this was that most Dutch parties didn’t bother to campaign on the islands due to the small number of eligible voters. Where it comes to eligible voters with the Dutch nationality living abroad, including Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten, the Voting Council remarked that the registration of these voters has improved. For the first time voters could register via the internet instead of by mail. Efforts to inform voters abroad that they must vote with a red pencil or pen seemed to have been successful as the number of invalid votes decreased a lot: from 3.6 per cent in the previous elections to 0.6 per cent in the most recent elections. The Voting Council requested the Dutch Government to promptly implement other proposed improvements such as a permanent registration of voters abroad and the possibility to download the ballot via the internet.
Source: “The Daily Herald” 2012-11-17