Voting during the Dutch municipal elections

Once every four years, elections of the municipal councils take place. In 2022, the municipal elections will take place on 16 March. Apart from residents with a residence permit, non-Dutch people from EU countries without a residence permit can also vote. But how does municipality elections work in the Netherlands? And how do you find out who you want to vote for?

How does the Dutch government work?

First, it is important to know how the Dutch government works. The Netherlands is a democracy, a form of government in which the residents rule. Representatives are elected to make decisions about the government. In the Netherlands, the representation of the people is called the House of Representatives: de Tweede Kamer. De Tweede Kamer represents the people, passes laws, and controls the government. There is also a senate: de Eerste Kamer. De Eerste Kamer is responsible for approving or disapproving laws that are proposed by de Tweede Kamer. De Eerste and Tweede Kamer together are called the Parliament.

In addition to the national government, there are two other levels of government in the Netherlands: the province and, below that, the municipalities. Municipalities are responsible for many things inside their area: civil affairs, public order and safety, economic affairs, social affairs and employment, care, well-being and public health, immigration and integration, education, urban planning and public housing, traffic and transport, environmental management, and culture, sports, and recreation. Municipalities receive money from the government, but they can also levy collect their own taxes.

At the head of each municipality is a municipal council (gemeenteraad). This board is elected at the municipal elections (gemeenteraadsverkiezingen), this year happening on March 16. It determines the municipality’s policies and supervises the daily management: the mayor and the councilors. The size of the municipal council depends on the size of the municipality.

Why are there again elections?

It may be that it feels like we just had an election. And that's true. However, there are several different elections in the Netherlands. Once every four years, in March or May, there is an election for de Tweede Kamer. When the government falls (like in 2021), the elections are earlier.

Besides that, once every four years, is the Provincial Council election. Then, the board of the province is elected. At the same time, you then also vote for the board for the water authorities. The next election will take place in 2023. Every five years, the election of the European Parliament takes place. In 2024 is the next election for the European Parliament. Lastly, municipal elections are held once every four years.

Dutch Municipal elections in 2022

March 16 is election day. On March 14 (Monday) and March 15 (Tuesday), some polling stations will be already open. Check here if there is a polling station open in your area.

During the municipal elections, you choose the members of the municipal council. The candidates with the most votes become councillors. They make decisions about the policy of the municipality where you live. Each candidate is a member of a political party. The more votes a party receives, the more seats (places) it gets in the municipal council.

Am I eligible to vote during the municipal elections?

Almost everyone is allowed to vote in the Netherlands. Every Dutch person with the right to vote can vote from the age of 18. Non-Dutch people also have the right to vote. Check here if you are allowed to vote if you live in the Netherlands, while you are non-Dutch:

I am from a country within the European Union (EU)
Residents of the Netherlands with a non-Dutch nationality but from a country within the EU may only vote if they are registered with a Dutch municipality.

I am from a country outside the European Union (EU)
Do you have the nationality of a country outside the EU? Then you must have lived in the Netherlands continuously for at least 5 years. You must have a residence permit.

Who should I vote for?

On 31 January 2022, all political parties submitted their list of candidates. It varies from one municipality to another who you can vote for.

It is quite normal that you are not sure who to vote for, because there are many people to choose from. Luckily, voting tools can help you to make your choice. Dutch options include StemWijzer and Kieskompas.

Make sure you check the website of the municipality before you go voting! For example, in Amsterdam, you will also need to vote for the district councils and the management committee of the new city area Weesp. In Rotterdam you will vote for the municipality council and a district council.

How does voting work?

If you are allowed to vote, you will automatically receive a voting pass (stempas in Dutch). You will automatically receive this voting pass in your mailbox two weeks before the elections. Did you not receive a voting pass or did you lose your voting pass? Then, you can request a substitute voting pass at your municipality.

stembureau flag
On election day, you can vote at one of the many polling stations (stembureaus). These are open all day: from 7:30 in the morning until 21:00 in the evening. To make it easy for everyone, you can often find a polling station nearby. You can find the nearest polling station on your voting pass. Most polling stations have a identifiable flag in front of the entrance.

You need to identify yourself at the polling station. Dutch people and people with an identity from any EU member state, Iceland, Liechtenstein, or Norway can identify themselves with their passport, driver’s license, or identity card. For people from Switzerland, a driving license is no valid identification. Are you coming from another country outside the EU? Then you can only identify yourself with a valid passport. And very important: bring your voting pass!

At the polling station, one of the election workers will ask you for your voting pass and any valid identification paper. Without these documents, you are not allowed to vote. You will receive a voting paper and a red pencil. The voting paper is a (very) large sheet of paper. Choose your candidate, color the dot in front of your candidate’s name red and fold the paper again. Finally, put your voting paper in the mailbox.

Results

In the evening, the unofficial results will be announced on television. About two days after the voting day, the municipality will announce the official results.

Good to know

Last, but not least: some things which are good to know:
    •   Children are not allowed into the voting booth!
    •   You may take a photo of your voting paper, but you must ensure the privacy of the other voters.

Inge

written by Inge

My love for exploring new cities has grown since I live near Eindhoven’s city center. Hopefully, I can share some valuable content with you to help you feel at home in your city as well!