First time: Dutch abroad to start voting for the Senate

This year, for the first time, Dutch citizens who live abroad will be able to vote for the Senate, the Eerste Kamer or the upper house of parliament. The voting procedures start this week, with ballot papers sent to overseas residents who registered to vote in the provincial elections of March 15th.

So far, Dutch nationals abroad could only vote in the European and in national elections (for the 150 members of the lower chamber, the Tweede Kamer).

Last year a change to the constitution, which required a parliamentary majority of two thirds, paved the way for the new law on provincial elections, which then determine who will be the 75 members of the Senate.

The composition of the Senate is determined by the 12 provincial councils (570 seats), four electoral colleges in the Caribbean Netherlands and, under the new law, an additional college for overseas voters.

This college, composed by Dutch citizens abroad, has 25 seats, which could increase in the future as the number depends on how many people are registered to vote.

The provincial elections will take place on March 15th. In May, the elected representatives will vote for the Senate.

How to vote

To take part in the election, Dutch citizens living abroad had to register as overseas voters via the Municipality of The Hague. The deadline was February 1st.

The ballot papers and candidate lists will be sent out by email from this week. People will then have to print the ballot paper, vote and send it with the postal vote certificate and a photocopy of a valid Dutch passport or identity card to the polling station in The Hague. Alternatively, all these documents can be sent to the Dutch embassy in the country of residence.

Low participation

It is estimated that around a million Dutch citizens live abroad, of which about half are entitled to vote. For this first Senate election, however, only 37,000 registered in the electoral roll.

Their most common countries of residence were Germany (7096), Belgium (5861), France (3870), the UK (2674), the USA (2370), Spain (2193), Switzerland (2122), Sweden (876), Australia (704) and Portugal (703).

In comparison, some 90,000 people registered for the 2021 general election.

“Many people did not know about the new elections, or the deadline, or were confused by what the Dutch government announced at the last elections, that once registered, one is registered for life. However… a new registration was needed after all. In that light, the number of over 37,000 voters is very encouraging,” said Eelco Keij, chairman of the Foundation for the Dutch Abroad (SNBN) and candidate for the party D66.

“Now that these people are registered for life, this number will grow with every election,” he added.

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