Students note high level of trust in Dutch democratic process

ISS lobby as polling station gives students the opportunity to observe and compare Dutch election practices with those in their own countries.

ISS students in discussion with Dutch election official

During the Dutch general election on 15 March, some students took time out from their class with Kees Biekart to observe the Dutch democratic process in action.

The ISS lobby, rearanged for the day to act as one of the many polling stations, gave the students the opportunity to observe the voting process and ask questions of one of the polling station officers.

Trust and low-tech

The students were most struck by the high level of trust between Dutch voters and the committee managing the election and the low-tech approach to voting.

The students pointed out that many of them come from countries where levels of trust are low and levels of curruption are high and where a system like the one in the Netherlands (in which the votes are counted by hand by by the same committee which organizes the elections) would lead to big debates about counting transparency and accountability.

Observing the low-tech appraoch to voting led to a discussion on relevance on the methodology of voting and counting and the observation that digital voting and counting systems do not necessarily reduce levels of corruption and manipulation.

In the end, the integrity of the election process depends on the willingness of the electoral officers to remain fair in such an important citizen-centred process.

After discussing these issues with one of the election officials, several of the students planned to witness the counting process when all the ballots will be checked manually with the party representatives as observers.

Publication date: 15 March 2017