Today is election day for European Parliament members. All over Europe elections are taking place to choose our representatives in Brussels. It was also my very first time to vote outside the U.S. It’s the first time I’ve voted in 20 years. Wow, when I write that it really hits home how long I’ve been been living here!
I became a Dutch citizen in 2007 and this is the first election that has come up since then. I believe in voting. What I don’t believe in is voting in a country where I don’t live. For this reason, even though legally I could, I haven’t voted in any U.S. elections since leaving there. It’s just a thing with me. I don’t feel it’s right to vote somewhere where you don’t live and I think you should make a choice. Why should someone in California be affected by the vote of someone who doesn’t even live there?
Anyway, today I voted. A lot of people think these European elections are a joke. I partly agree. I mean, we are voting for local political parties, who will send someone from the party to Brussels, who will then choose a coalition group to join that may or may not represent what you believe in. It’s complicated. It’s messy.
Here are some posters, in English, that were officially available to try to get the vote out. You can get a feel for the issues, and also a feel for how boring this is:
The voting process was really low key and low tech. There are voting stations all around Haarlem. We all received voting cards in the mail and you could go to any location in Haarlem with your card and some kind of photo ID. I went to the one set up in the old VVV spot at the train station. There were 3 retired people sitting at a table when I walked in. I handed over my paperwork, they checked the numbers and ID against a printed out list. Then the first man slapped down a folded piece of paper. I looked at him. What that my voting paper? Or what? I obviously had that look on my face. He simply said “Daar, met het rode potlood ” (Over there, with the red pencil) and looked over to the booth behind me. Ah. I took my paper and walked into the booth. There’s no curtain. It’s not all that secret really. On the piece of paper (A3 sized) is a list of about 100 names. I had to choose one. The names are grouped into the political parties and most people just mark the first name on the list for the party they want. Picking a name doesn’t mean that person will win. It’s all about the parties anyway. I chose the first female name on the list for the party I wanted. I filled in the little circle with my red pencil and put the folded paper into the locked box beside the table. Done.
It was actually kind of anti-climactic after all these years of waiting to be able to vote. Maybe the next Dutch Parliamentary elections will be more exciting.