Strong boost in voter turnout for 2019 elections in Netherlands

Flevoland voting passes for the 2019 Provincial States election, 20 March 2019
Flevoland voting passes for the 2019 Provincial States election, 20 March 2019Photo: jarretera/DepositPhotos

Voter turnout was up substantially in the country's provincial election on Wednesday, compared with turnout in 2015. Some 57.9 percent of eligible voters showed up at polling places, up from 47.8 percent four years earlier, according to RTL Nieuws.

Over 13 million Dutch voters had the opportunity to vote for the members of the Provincial States and also their regional water boards. While the percentage of voters was still lower than two years ago when 81.6 percent selected the Members of Parliament in the Tweede Kamer, it far surpassed the 37.3 percent that showed up in 2014 to select European Parliament representatives.

The winners of Wednesday's election will not only take their places in government at the provincial level, they will also select the composition of the Eerste Kamer, the Dutch Senate. That will take place in May, with new members taking office on June 11. The outgoing members will conduct their final scheduled official business on June 4. The new Eerste Kamer members will take office on June 11. 

Exit polls projected a shift in Dutch politics, with the ruling coalition losing seven seats. The parties, including Prime Minister Mark Rutte's VVD, CDA, D66 and ChristenUnie, only held 38 of the 75 Eerste Kamer seats, a one-seat majority. They will likely need to ferret out support from either one of the large left wing parties, GroenLinks and PvdA (Labour), or they will need to win over multiple smaller parties for each piece of legislation the coalition wants passed as law.

The mass shooting on 24 Oktoberplein in Utrecht earlier this week was expected to boost voter turnout, and have an impact on some voters' selections, according to pollster Maurice De Hond. This effect could clearly be seen in Utrecht itself, where the lines at polling stations were much longer than expected, according to newspaper AD.

By the time the polls had closed, nearly 61 percent in the province of Utrecht had voted, a stark contrast to 2015 when turnout was below 49 percent.

Millions of Dutch made use of voting-aid websites in the run-up to the election. MijnStem was used 2.6 million times, and Stem Wijzer 1.7 million times, according to news wire ANP.  By 10:30 a.m. 7 percent of Dutch voters cast their vote in the Provincial States election, exactly the same turnout as this time in the 2015 election, according to a prognosis by research institute Ipsos. During the previous Provincial States election, the turnout eventually amounted to nearly 48 percent

Problems at Polling Stations

Most of the polling stations opened smoothly and promptly at 7:30 a.m., though there were some issues. The De Huve polling station in Almelo forgot to bring their waterboard ballots on Wednesday morning, instead brining two boxes of the provincial election ballots. The problem was quickly resolved. 

A polling station in Houten could not open as planned, because the voting booths had to be moved by order of the fire department. The booths were set up in a room that was too small, and were blocking an emergency exit. The location at De Loericker Stee opened at 10:45 a.m.

And in Arnhem, voters kept showing up at the Rozet cultural center to cast their vote, only to find out that the center is no longer a polling station - even though it is still listed on the city's roster for voting locations, according to Tubantia. 

Diemen polling place
A polling place in Diemen, Noord Holland, was relatively empty by 6:30 p.m. Polls closed at 9 p.m. 20 March 2019Photo: NL Times