Voter fraud investigated in Netherlands' Ukraine Referendum; New election workers unscrutinized
Interior Minister Ronald Plasterk can not guarantee that no fraud was committed in the collection of signatures in support of the Ukraine referendum, he said in response to questions from law firm Bureau Brandeis on the matter. The Electoral Council took a sample and verified the authenticity of the address with the name of the signee, but it can not be said with certainty that the signatures were submitted by different individuals, the Minster said according to the Volkskrant.
In 2015 GeenPeil, the initiators of the referendum about an association agreement between the European Union and Ukraine, gathered 427 thousand signatures for the referendum. Far more than the 300 thousand signatures legally required for a referendum to be organized. GeenPeil managed to do so by developing an app with which sympathizers could fill out a form and sign online. The referendum law states that the signatures must be submitted to the Electoral Board on paper, so GeenPeil printed them out and handed them over. The Electoral Council found this acceptable.
In December Bureau Brandeis lawyer Christiaan Alberdingk Thijm wrote a letter to Plasterk, responsible for the referendum as Minister of Home Affairs, questioning the method GeenPeil used.
The Minister's response indicates that the sample of signatures the Electoral Council tested holds no guarantee that no fraud was committed. The board checked the names and addresses against municipal records, but could give no assurance that all the signatures were made by different people. "Anyone with a list of addresses could submit multiple declarations", the lawyer said to the newspaper. The Council could have verified the identity of the signatories by telephone or email, but decided not to do so, the lawyer added.
It is unclear what this revelation will mean for the result of the referendum - a majority voted against the association agreement with the Ukraine, resulting in the Netherlands being the only EU country not to ratify the agreement and a lot of embarrassment for the government.
Today Minister Plasterk is participating in a parliamentary debate about the security of the voting process for the upcoming parliamentary elections in March.
Earlier on Thursday BNR revealed that the members of polling stations that are responsible for counting the votes during elections, are hardly ever screened. The broadcaster based this on a survey among several municipalities. The Elections Act states that members must be at least 18 years old and must complete a short course. According to BNR, no other background screenings are done.
According to the Electoral Council, municipalities are responsible for making sure that the voting and the counting of the ballots run smoothly. The association of Dutch municipalities VNG told BNR that there has never been problems with vote counts in the past attributed to certain members of the polling stations. "Municipalities adhere to the law, if that changes, we change too." a spokesperson said.
Plasterk recently decided that all ballots in the upcoming elections will be counted by hand, after concerns were raised about the security on software the Electoral Council uses. This will mean a lot of extra effort and costs for the municipalities. Plasterk said on Thursday that these costs will be dealt with in a "reasonable way". He realizes that he is expecting a lot from the municipalities, he added.