Court: No extra time for parliamentary election votes from abroad

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The voting ballots of Dutch nationals living abroad must be in the Netherlands by the parliamentary election on March 15th, or their votes will not count, the court in The Hague ruled on Thursday. No exception will be made for Dutch whose vote is late due to, for example, problems with the mail, ANP reports.

D66 candidate parliamentarian Eelco Keij filed this lawsuit against the Dutch state on behalf of 154 Dutch living abroad who have not yet received their voting documents. This means that they have virtually no chance of voting on time for the election. Keij asked the court to extend the period in which votes from abroad will be counted by one week - from election day on March 15th to March 23rd. 

Keij said that he is "surprised" by the court's ruling. "This is not a political process", Keij said to the news wire. "We do not know for whom these people want to vote, only that they want to vote."

Over 77 thousand Dutch living abroad have registered to vote in the parliamentary elections. They have three options of doing so: by mail, by proxy or by coming to the Netherlands on election day. Most want to vote by mail. The current rules states that votes from abroad must be in The Hague or at an embassy that serves as a polling station by the day of the election. 

In the hearing the State's lawyer said that it is a really bad idea to change the rules and laws so close to the elections. He also argued that most voters abroad will have their votes in on time. "Right now, a week before the election, already 60 percent of the votes by letter have been received in The Hague." According to the lawyer, in the previous election 88 percent of the registered abroad votes were received on time. "Some people did not vote after all, and a small part, about 700 votes, was received too late."