65,000 votes 70+ people not counted by errors in letter voting

Some 65,000 letter votes from over 70 people were not included in the Second Chamber elections because they had not been properly issued. That number is good for almost one seat.

DeccEit and the Open State Foundation, an organization dedicated to a digitally transparent government, examined the minutes of the pre-opening of the letter votes. The most common mistake made by the voters is that the plus pass was not included. In addition, in many envelopes there was no ballot at all.

At the final outcome of the elections, the Electoral Council reported that 0.29% of the letter votes had been declared invalid. However, it was not considered how many letter votes were already dropped before counting began. That part of put aside votes now appears to be 6%.

Because of Corona, the Cabinet had given over 70 people the opportunity to cast their votes by post in recent elections. But already on the first day, Monday 15 March, when the return envelopes were opened, it became clear that many people had not followed the procedure properly.

For example, there was regularly no voting pass in the return envelope. The closed ballot envelope, which was also included in the return envelope, could not be opened at that time due to the secrecy of voting. So all these votes were put aside and would not count. The Association of Dutch Municipalities concluded later that day that it was 7 to 8 percent of the letter votes.

Foreign Minister Ollongren decided to change the rules for letter voting during the elections. From Tuesday 16 March, municipalities were also allowed to open the ballot envelope to see if a voting pass was accidentally put in there. All municipalities also rechecked the letters of the first day.

The change in the rules also had a different effect for 25 municipalities: they were suddenly delivered mail-bags full of ballot envelopes without an address. Some 33,000 people had put the forms not in the addressees return envelope but in the ballot envelope, intended for secrecy.

Because there was no return address on it, PostNL delivered these envelopes after consultation with the Ministry of the Interior to 25 large municipalities near the sorting centers of the company. So these municipalities had to search all these mailbags in the hope of finding a vote plus and thus also a corresponding congregation. The latter only happened in a few cases.

Ultimately, therefore, the Ministers adaptation had only limited effect. Instead of 7 to 8%, 6% of the letter votes were not counted. These voices have been lost.

However, the Ministry still supports the choice to allow letter voting for all those over 70. โ€œOf course, every uncounted voice is too many, but all in all, we are satisfied with how it went,โ€ says a spokesman.

โ€œ In general terms, the probability of errors in letter voting is higher than in the polling room, because there are more actions involved,โ€ she explains. โ€œIn Austria, for example, where letter voting has been possible for a long time, the percentage of non-counted votes at the last election was 5.7%. And in the UK at the launch around 4%.โ€

In order to make the elections as accessible as possible during the coronapandemic, the risk of these lost votes has therefore increased. However, the ministry conducted a campaign under the heading Every vote counts to explain the process.