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Prosecutor meets with candidates to discuss correct use of proxies

Prosecutor Meets With Candidates To Discuss Correct Use Of

Candidates of the participating parties in the March 15 Island Council elections attended a meeting with Island Governor Jonathan Johnson and Chief Prosecutor Walter Kupers on Friday, February 10, to discuss the use of proxies. The meeting served to give information about the correct use of proxies to prevent abuse, and to explain that vote buying and recruiting votes is not permitted. 

There are two kinds of proxies: written proxies and the so-called “onderhandse” (underhanded) proxy whereby the voter signs the form on the back of the voting card to give someone else the permission to vote on his or her behalf. A proxy affords people the opportunity to vote when they can’t do so in person, explained Island Governor Johnson. In the previous Island Council elections in 2019, about 10% of the votes were cast through proxies. 

A written proxy is a separate form which has to be requested at the Census Office. The voter fills in this form to give someone else permission to vote on his or her behalf, and submits it personally at the Census Office. A written proxy is numbered and registered by the Census Office. It is not allowed to copy written proxies. The number of proxies that can be picked up at the Census Office is limited to two per person.

Some questions and concerns were raised during Friday’s meeting. One of the these concerned the proxy procedure for residents who are abroad for a longer period. The questions and concerns will be discussed with the Election Council (“Kiesraad”) in the Netherlands.

Punishable by law

Chief Prosecutor Kupers explained to the candidates that by law it is forbidden to put pressure on people to vote and that the buying of votes, or proxies, is punishable by law. Buying a proxy, and by doing so buying a vote, for money, other material things, or a promise is against the law. It is important to note that the proxy needs to be freely given by a voter. It is also forbidden to make an attempt to buy a proxy. The person who accepts the buying of a proxy can also face criminal charges. 

Collecting proxies through recruiting votes (“ronselen” in Dutch), in other words, going around to people to ask for their proxy, whether or not promising them things in return, is punishable by law too, Kupers noted. “The result is that the elected person enters the public office without the correct mandate, and that goes against the principle of free and fair elections. People need to be completely free to vote, without any pressure,” said Kupers.

The Chief Prosecutor said that proving the buying of votes of proxies is not easy, but if the Public Prosecutor’s Office has concrete indications, it will carry out an investigation. If that investigation yields sufficient proof, the Public Prosecutor’s Office will prosecute and take the matter to court.

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