Voting in National Elections - the Netherlands

Foreigners who are legal residents of the Netherlands may vote in some local elections. EU citizens may vote - or even stand as a candidate - in EU elections. Find out how and where to register as a voter in the Netherlands...

The EU treaty (known as the "Maastricht Treaty") gives every citizen in the Union the right to vote and stand as a candidate in municipal and European elections in the country where they are currently resident under the same conditions as nationals of that country. However, the Treaty is implemented differently from country to country.

In the Netherlands, Dutch nationals aged 18 or over have the right to vote (actief kiesrecht) in local, regional, national and European elections.

EU citizens from outside the Netherlands may only vote in local and European elections if legally resident in the country.

Non-EU citizens are eligible to vote in local elections but only if they have been legally resident in the Netherlands for five years or more.

Registering to Vote

Anyone wishing to stay in the Netherlands for more than three months needs a residence permit (Verblijfsvergunning). These can be obtained from the Town Hall (stadhuis) or community office (gemeente). As part of the process of registration with their municipal authority, individuals are asked to declare their wish to register as a voter in the Netherlands.

All registered voters are sent a polling card by post approximately two weeks prior to the election. This must then be presented at their designated polling station on the day of election.

EU citizens

Since 1999 nationals of other EU member states are no longer automatically included on the Dutch electoral role for elections to the European Parliament.

Getting a residence permit and therefore registering as a voter means proving identity as an EU citizen by means of the following documents:

  • A passport
  • A BSN number
  • Two photographs
  • A copy of the birth certificate
  • Proof of address (in some cases)

Registration for European elections is permanent and the relevant member state is informed of a citizen's registration to vote in the Netherlands - preventing EU citizens from voting more than once.

It is the voter's responsibility to notify the local authorities of any change of address and ultimately their departure from the country.

Standing as a candidate in elections

EU citizens also have the right to stand as candidates in municipal and European elections in their country of residence under the same conditions as nationals of that country.

Non-EU citizens

Non-EU citizens wishing to vote in local elections must go through a similar process of registration and prove that they have been resident in the country for at least five years.

The Voting Procedure

The Netherlands makes extensive use of electronic voting. This means that in most districts a visit to the voting station means using a voting machine instead of a ballot paper. Voters must present their polling card.

Polling stations (opiniepeilings post) close at 21:00 on election day and the first results from areas with the fewest voters are typically known within five minutes of closing. Results in national elections are usually in from all areas by midnight with the official results announced the following morning.

Use of online voting (via the Internet) and telephone voting is being developed. Experiments in both methods have been carried out for Dutch expatriates in previous elections. More trials are planned.

Remote voting is usually reserved for Dutch expatriates.

European Parliamentary Elections

All EU citizens regardless of where in the EU they reside may vote in the European Parliamentary Elections. A citizen may only vote once per election and only from the place in which they are registered to vote.

By voting in the Netherlands, the EU citizen votes for their choice of Dutch representative to the European Parliament. And after voting in the Netherlands the EU national loses their right to vote in another State of the Union (anyone doing so may be fined and imprisoned).