— Last week, many AUC students found an envelope in their mailboxes with their voting pass for the upcoming Municipal Council Elections (Gemeenteraadsverkiezingen). Are you wondering what it is for, why you get to vote or if you should vote at all? Read on to find the answers to all your questions.
- Can I vote?
You can vote if you…
- are aged 18 years or above on 16 March 2022.
- were registered as a resident in the district of Amsterdam by 31 January 2022
- have EU citizenship OR if you have a non-EU nationality, you may vote if you have lived legally in the Netherlands for 5 years without interruption by 31 January 2022. Legal means that you have been registered in the Netherlands during this period and that you had a valid residence permit during this period.
- are not excluded from voting.
As you can see, unlike during the National Government Elections, possessing Dutch nationality is not a requirement to vote in the Municipal Council Elections. In 1996 the EU decided that all EU citizens should be able to vote in the elections of the municipality they live in. These elections do not influence international politics on a larger scale, but they do influence your living environment on a daily basis.
- Why should I vote?
Although you might not care about loose pavement tiles or elderly homes in Amsterdam, there is a long list of other topics that the municipal council decides on which affect your life on a daily basis, such as university funding, festivals, sports facilities, museums and local arts and culture facilities, markets and stores, mental healthcare, accessibility for disabilities, waste policies, parks, public spaces and safety – just to name a few. Will that empty store in Javastraat become a kebab place, thrift store, starbucks or another Gorillaz distribution centre? Will there be free or paid festivals in Flevopark and Oosterpark? Will we get windmills in Science Park? Can police officers start doing preventive pat-downs around Amsterdam? Got another fine for waste that was not yours? All of that is taken care of by the municipal council.
Did you know that in the Netherlands only 7% of municipal council members are under 30 years old, while 19% of the voters are under 30? Moreover, only 31% of the council members identify as female. On top of this, young people are the group who make the least use of their right to vote.
This is why you should vote – and if you do, vote strategically: estimate the amount of seats a party will obtain by checking their current amount of seats. For example, if they had 5 seats, you could vote for someone who is underrepresented and listed lower than 5. This way, the municipal council will be a better representation of your values and Amsterdam’s population.
- What are these Municipal Elections about?
In the Netherlands, elections to the municipal councils (Gemeenteraad) take place once every four years, meaning this will be the first and last time during your time at AUC where you can cast your vote to contribute to local politics.
The Netherlands is composed of 380 Municipalities, all of which have a municipal council between 9 and 45 members which are democratically elected by the residents of the municipality. Over the last 10 years, the national government under Prime Minister Rutte has decentralised many political tasks, meaning the municipal councils have more responsibilities and influence than they used to. The municipality makes decisions that are a lot more specific and influence your daily life, as opposed to the national government which influences the general course of national politics.
In addition to voting for the municipality council, this year you can also vote for the District Commission (Stadsdeelcommissie) if you are 16 years or older and the above mentioned conditions apply to you. The District Commission of Amsterdam-Oost consists of local residents that each represent a part of the district in the name of a political party. They are the eyes and ears of the neighbourhood and advise the executive municipality staff about daily affairs in their district. These elections happen at the same time, which is why you received 2 separate voting passes.
- How do I find out which party and candidate to vote for?
As the decisions made by municipal councils have a huge impact, it is important to find out which party and candidate represents your ideas the best. A difference with the national government elections is that you can vote for smaller local parties which are not active on a national level. On the other hand, bigger national political parties might not be active in the municipality of Amsterdam.
You can vote for a candidate that represents a party for the municipal council. The higher they are on the list of their party, the bigger the chance they will end up in the final council. This way, candidates who are placed lower on the list but receive a lot of votes can still become elected by preferential votes.
To find out which party lines up with your ideas, there are voting guides online. These guides quiz you on your opinions on the topics the municipality works on, and show which parties’ statements match your ideas the best. Although they are in Dutch, you can translate them to English with the Google-Translate function in the chrome browser.
The voting guide for the Municipal Council Elections (all of Amsterdam):
The voting guide for the District Commission Elections (Amsterdam-Oost):
If you have found a party that lines up with your ideas, google its website to find more specific information about the candidates. And consider voting strategically, as mentioned above, so at least your vote will contribute to a more representative political landscape in Amsterdam.
- How do I vote?
On the 16 March you can cast your vote at polling stations around Amsterdam. With your voting pass, you received a list of the stations and their addresses per district. The closest ones to AUC that are open on the 16 March are Café polder and the UvA science building, so you can combine your lunch break with a short walk to a polling station right across the street!
If you are not free to vote on 16 March, there are a few polling stations open on 14 and 15 March as well, of which the closest to AUC is the Stadsloket at Oostpoort.
In case you cannot vote and want someone else to cast the vote for you, you can fill out their information on the back of your voting passes.
Make sure to bring your voting passes, your ID and a facemask, and you are ready to go!
More information? Check https://www.amsterdam.nl/en/elections/