Illegal vote recruitment alleged in Roermond, Limburg
Mayor Rianne Donders of Roermond has reported allegations about the recruitment of proxy votes in the Limburg city. The city pressed charges in the case on Tuesday, but the municipality chose to announce the corruption case only after the polls closed on Wednesday evening.
Voting in the Netherlands started on Monday in the municipal election. Some 13.6 million people were allowed to cast a ballot in 333 city council races.
Donders said she received concrete signs that proxy votes were being illegally recruited over the past few days in the city of 58,000. "As mayor, I am responsible for, and I attach great importance to, the fair conduct of the elections in Roermond," said Donders. "That's why I took these steps."
The matter is now being handled by the Public Prosecution Service, and the mayor said she is not able to disclose any details. Her spokesperson declined to comment further, and would not disclose which party or parties were allegedly involved in the scheme.
Someone is considered to be recruiting proxy votes when a person approaches and asks voters to sign their voting pass and hand it over to them to act as a private proxy. That is considered a crime which is punishable by law.
Two suspects have since been questioned, the Public Prosecution Service said. The office asked people who were approached by proxy vote recruiters to contact them as part of the investigation. "Election fraud is highly undesirable and has a major impact," the Public Prosecution Service said. "The suspects undermine the democratic system through such criminal behavior."
It is not the first time that Roermond has been startled by allegations of illegal voter recruitment practices. Peter Cammaert reported similar in 2014 when he was mayor there. However, the complaint was dropped by the Public Prosecution Service. Even then, the mayor did not want to say which party was under scrutiny.
Three years ago, the Supreme Court upheld a conviction against former VVD alderman Jos van Rey from Roermond. That case determined that he was guilty of voting pass fraud during the period of 2010-2012.
Reporting by ANP