EU Elections: Improving Voter Turnout, But Who Will Turn Up?

By Edivaldo McEnroe

– Projections indicate that Dutch voter turnout will improve in the upcoming European parliamentary elections, on May 23. However, there are concerns with the mobilisation of non-Dutch EU citizens, including those at Amsterdam University College (AUC).

Historically, European elections have suffered from low voter turnout, a fact that has provided fuel for the eurosceptics who argue that the EU is anti-democratic. In the Netherlands specifically, turnout was only 37.3 percent in 2014, according to Politico, while Dutch parliamentary elections in 2012 and 2017 had significantly higher turnouts, at 74.6 percent and 81.9 percent, respectively.

The rise in voter turnout between the Dutch elections in 2012 and 2017 indicate an increasing political engagement in the Netherlands that could benefit the European election turnout. In line with this, the number of Dutch voters living abroad who have registered to vote in the European Parliament elections has nearly tripled, according to NRC from 23,000 in 2014 to 60,000 in 2019.

The deadline for Dutch voters living abroad to register was on April 11 – two days later than the deadline for non-Dutch EU citizens who want to vote in the Netherlands. It is precisely this second group, estimated to be 316,000 by CBS and some of whom study at AUC, that risks not to be heard or fairly represented in the upcoming elections. Of 63 AUC students polled on Facebook, 78 percent were unaware of the April 9 deadline to register to vote.

It is unclear what has caused so many students to be unaware of this deadline as the municipality of Amsterdam sent out a letter explaining how to register, through the Model Y32 registration form, to all non-Dutch EU citizens.

Potentially municipality specific policy has caused overall information on the registration process to be limited. D66 Member of Parliament Monica den Boer told NL times that municipalities have the right to share information about the upcoming elections to their residents as they see fit. According to her, this has led to information being shared in Dutch and through sources not easily accessible to all non-Dutch EU Citizens, thus failing to directly address potential voters.

Even the website of the Dutch election council (Kiesraad), which has most of the information pertinent to the elections, does not state the registration deadline. When asked to comment, the council said, “Our website states that nationals of the other Member States of the European Union, who live in the Netherlands can cast their vote (active electoral vote) for the election of the European Parliament, provided that on the day of nomination they are officially — according to the BRP (basisregistratie personen) — living in the Netherlands, and register (once) with their municipality with a Y-32 form. The election calendar on our website indicated that the day of nomination for the European Parliament elections was April 9 2019. The required information was therefore available on our website. In addition, the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations advised municipalities to actively write to non-Dutch nationals who live in the Netherlands and who are nationals of another Member State”. However, this information is only stated on the Dutch version of the site.

It remains questionable if the information is sufficient, especially for elections that have historically lacked in coverage. “I hadn’t thought about it, because I didn’t know they even existed before I came to AUC, we don’t hear anything about them in the UK”, says third-year Social Sciences major, Hester Lavington, who was too young to vote during the last elections.

On the other hand, students may not be the most representative when it comes to meeting the deadline, especially considering the excess of academic deadlines at AUC. According to Gabrielė Plukaitė, second-year Humanities major, “On top of study frenzy, voting adds another layer of things to worry about”.

For non-Dutch EU citizens who missed the deadline to vote in the Netherlands, there may still be a possibility to vote in your country of citizenship, depending on its registration requirements.

If you are eligible to vote and want to learn more about what Members of European Parliament in your country voted for during their previous term, and how that would compare to what you would vote for, go to:

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