Choose your own polling station
27 July 2006 – At the next elections, Amsterdammers can almost
certainly choose at which polling station they cast their vote,
according to Rob Norbart of the Elections Office. Incidentally,
no official decision has yet been taken as to the date of the elections.
Next fall, Amsterdammers will probably receive an election pass,
which allows them to vote at any polling station within the municipality.
Perhaps it will also be possible to vote at alternative locations,
such as supermarkets. The districts will have to take the initiative
to make this possible.
Since recently, municipalities have the possibility to let their
residents choose where they vote. At the municipal elections of
last March, 239 municipalities offered their citizens this choice.
According to an evaluation, turnout in these municipalities rose
by 1.8% more than in other municipalities. Whether this was caused
by increased freedom of choice is uncertain. It is also conceivable
that turnout rose due to more intensive voter education in these
municipalities. The evaluation further showed that the new system
is more vulnerable where it regards the personal data on the passes
and their distribution.
LOST VOTING PASS
In March, each polling station in Amsterdam had two voting machines;
in November, there will only be one. The reason is that there are
often multiple polling stations at the same location. With the new
voting pass, voters can easily switch to a quieter polling station.
A disadvantage of the new system is that people will not be able
to vote if they discover on Election Day that they have lost their
voting pass. Requests for duplicates can only be made until a few
days before the election.
Voting with a passport instead of the voting pass will not be possible,
because otherwise people could vote more than once at different
Amsterdam will launch a campaign to make sure that people know
about the voting pass. It is not known yet whether citizens will
be offered the possibility to practice on voting machines. This
also depends on whether districts can manage to organise this.
“Prior to the municipal elections it was possible to practice
at various locations, such as old people’s homes. Perhaps
this will now only be possible at the district offices. Incidentally,
practicing is not as urgent now, because people have recently voted
with voting machines”, says Norbart of the Elections Office.
Research has found that the possibility to practice on a voting
machine may help some to actually cast their vote. This applies
especially to groups with low turnout, such as young people and
Amsterdam was one of the last municipalities to switch to the voting
machine. Recently, the ‘We don’t trust voting machines’
campaign was started to promote a return to the voting pencil, but
such a step is not considered for the 22 November elections.
Further, there are no officially approved voting machines available
with open source software and paper trails. These would make the
voting process more transparent.
In October or November, training will be given to the volunteers
who will be serving on the polling committees. Not only the procedures
regarding the voting pass will be discussed, but also to what extent
people may be assisted in casting their vote.
In March, there were complaints, mainly in the Bos en Lommer district,
about assistance given to voters. Helping voters might improperly
affect their voting behaviour. The Ombudsman has initiated an investigation
into these complaints, which will be published next month.
Incidentally, no formal decision has been taken on the date of
the election, Norbart says, although everybody assumes that it will
be 22 November. “We are already receiving official documents
from Procura with the date of 22 November”. Procura is the
company that supplies voting passes among other things.
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