Electoral colleges for the Senate

With the introduction of electoral colleges, Dutch inhabitants of Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba can indirectly affect the composition of the Senate starting from 2019. Dutch inhabitants of the Caribbean Netherlands elect members of these electoral colleges who, in turn, are entitled to vote in the Senate elections. The elections for the electoral colleges are held on the same day as the provincial council elections and the island council elections. The first elections for the electoral colleges took place on 20 March 2019. The directorship council on each island (Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba) is responsible for the organisation of the electoral college election on that particular island.

In the Netherlands, the members of the provincial councils elect the Senators. The islands of the Caribbean Netherlands are not part of a province, so, until recently, the Dutch inhabitants of the islands did not have a vote in the composition of the Senate. There are indeed island councils on Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba (similar to municipal councils), but non-Dutchmen are also represented in these. In order to allow all Dutch inhabitants of Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba to have an influence in the Senate, separate electoral colleges have been set up for the Caribbean Netherlands. The members of the electoral colleges choose the Senators in a manner similar to the members of the provincial councils.

Number of members

The number of members of the electoral colleges for the Senate is equal to the number of members of the island council. The number of members varies by island. Nonetheless, it is always an odd number of members.

  • Bonaire: 9 seats
  • St. Eustatius: 5 seats
  • Saba: 5 seats

Electability

The members of the electoral colleges for the Senate are elected by those who:

  • Are of Dutch nationality
  • Are at least 18 years of age on the day of the vote
  • Are residents of the public body (island) on the day of candidature
  • Are not excluded from suffrage

Constituencies, primary and central polling station

For the three elections of the electoral colleges for the Senate, the territory of each separate island (Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba) constitutes a single constituency. Furthermore, each island has a single primary polling station that is also the central polling station. This central/primary polling station fulfils a number of tasks in the election process for:

  • The registration procedure for the name of the political party
  • Nomination and candidature
  • Establishment of the election result
  • Filling openings

The central/polling station consists of five members, including a chairman and a deputy chairman. Three deputy members are also appointed. The governor is the chairman. The directorship council appoints the members and deputy members of the primary/central polling station for the elections of the electoral colleges for a period of four years.

Registration of political parties

Local political parties that wish to participate in the elections for the Senatorial electoral colleges under a particular name (referred to legally as a "designation") must have this designation registered at the island's central polling station. To do this, the party must pay a deposit of US$225 to the public agency. After the submission of a valid list of candidates for the next election, the deposit is refunded to the authorised party. In principle, registered designations for the House of Representative elections remain in effect until the elections for the electoral colleges for the Senate. This means that, in these cases, no new registration of the designation is required at the island's central polling station.  

Candidature

On the day of nomination, political parties that wish to participate in the elections submit their list of candidates to the central polling station for the election of the members of the electoral college for the Senate.

Declarations of support

For each constituency (island), political parties must submit a minimum of 10 declarations of support with the nominations for the election of the members of the electoral college for the Senate.

Nomination deposit

When submitting the list of candidates, all political parties must pay a deposit of US$225 to the public agency for the elections of the electoral college for the Senate. For subsequent elections, only those political parties that are not yet represented in the current electoral college for the Senate must pay the nomination deposit. If the party ultimately does not provide a valid list, then it receives a refund of the deposit after the result of the election. In the event of participation in the elections, the deposit will be refunded only partially if the party garners at least 75% of the electoral quorum.

Polling stations

Opening hours for the polling stations are 7:30 AM to 9 PM local time. Only special polling stations can open earlier, but these may not close later than 9 PM. The directorship council must attempt to make all polling stations suitable for handicapped voters.

Voting

At least 14 days prior to the elections, voters on Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba receive an invitation to vote at their home address: a voting card. With a voting card, a voter can cast a vote at any polling station on his/her island.

Proxy

Voters can authorise another person to vote for them on election day: this is called voting by proxy. This can be done in two ways. With a private proxy, you authorise a person to cast a vote for you by means of that person's voting card The initiative for this must be from the person granting the proxy and not from a political party or a candidate, for example. Garnering proxies is a criminal offence. With a written proxy, the voter must submit a written request to the governor (the administrative office) to authorise another voter to cast his/her vote. When voting with a private proxy, the voter must present a copy of the identity document of the person granting the proxy.

Identification requirement

Voters who cast their votes must identify themselves with an identity document. This identity document may be no more than five years out of date on the day of the vote.

Election result

Shortly after the election, the primary/central polling station determines the results and the allocation of seats.

Appointments

The central polling station on the particular island appoints the members of the electoral college for the Senate. If a candidate is appointed from the election, then the electoral college determines whether the appointed candidate can be permitted as a member of the electoral college. A check is then made of whether he/she complies with the requirements for membership. An assessment is also made of whether he/she performs ancillary activities that do not correspond with membership in the electoral college. This assessment is called a credentials investigation.

Provincial council elections and water authority elections

In the European portion of the Netherlands, island council elections, provincial council elections and elections for water authorities are held simultaneously with the elections for the electoral colleges for the Senate.