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21/11/2019 Communication Science news and articles

The European Elections: Basic Guide to What, Why and How

Having troubles with the when and how about the European elections? No stress, Medium helps you out!


In May 2019, hundreds of millions of EU citizens will elect their representatives for the European Parliament. Their choice will help shape the future of political, economic and social processes within the European continent as well as Europe’s role on the global stage. Medium believes it is imperative for all eligible voters to voice their position and take part in forming the future they want to see. That is why we will be covering the election in the months to come, starting with this brief overview and logistics concerning the election.

What are we voting for?
In the 2019 European elections, the citizens will choose their representatives for the European Parliament (EP). The EP shares the legislative and budgetary powers with the Council of the European Union. Nevertheless, the EP is the only parliamentary institution of the European Union that is directly elected by the EU citizens. With over 360 million eligible voters, the EP represents the second largest democratic electorate and the largest transitional electorate in the world. The EP currently consists of 751 members (750 and the president), commonly referred to as MEPs. MEPs are elected for a five-year period by citizens of all EU Member States. Each state receives a number of seats in the parliament depending on its population size. Within a state, seats are allocated to national parties in proportion to their share of the received votes. The EP is not composed of national parties, however. Once elected, MEPs are grouped into so-called European parties based on political affiliations and shared ideology. National political parties in the Member States usually assert their allegiance to an existing European party, or an intention to form a new one as a part of their election campaign.

We need to assume our position as active citizens, voice our opinions and take responsibility for forming our future.

Why vote?
This is the millions dollar question so many, now including me I guess, have tried to answer. Voter turnout in European elections has been dropping for decades now; from 61.99% of the population casting their vote in 1979 to only 42.61% in 2014, despite countries where voting is compulsory. Nevertheless, the EU and its regulations continue to have direct impacts on our everyday lives. The EP makes decision about the economy, resource-distribution, international trade, net neutrality, how to curb energy use, climate change, security, data privacy, job security, consumer protection, migration and so on. Basically, whether you care about politics or not, we are all influenced by them. This election is an opportunity for all adult citizens of the EU to select who will represent them in the European parliament until 2024. It is an opportunity to make sure that your interests and your vision for the future are represented during the decision-making processes. This is particularly important for the new generation of eligible voters; we need to assume our position as active citizens, voice our opinions and take responsibility for forming our future. For that, this election is as good a place as any. Now that we are ready to vote, how does it actually work?

How to vote?

Common rules
Since 1976, all MEPs are elected by direct universal suffrage meaning that all adult citizens have the right to vote and/or stand as candidates in European elections. Each citizen is only allowed to cast one vote in this elections. In 2019, the electorate will choose 705 representatives for the European Parliament and the elections will be held between 23 and 26 May. However, the electoral practices, requirements as well as the actual date of the election vary from country to country.

Voting in Amsterdam
The 2019 European elections will be held in the Netherlands on Thursday, May 23. The polling stations will be open from 7:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., with at least 25% of them being accessible to physically disabled voters. Any European citizen who is at least 18 years old and has not been debarred from voting is eligible to participate in the election. While both Dutch nationals, including the residents of the Caribbean part of the Netherlands, as well as expats can cast their votes, the necessary procedures differ.

 

For the Dutch citizens
If you possess Dutch nationality, are over 18 years old and has not been excluded for legal reasons, you are automatically registered to vote in the Netherlands. An invitation to cast your vote including a poll card will be sent to your home address no later than 14 days prior to the election day, May 23. The poll card allows you to vote in any polling station within your municipality’s borders. Your poll card will also list the address of a polling station close to your home, but other polling station will be made available at amsterdam.nl/verkiezingen. To cast a vote, all voters must present proof of identity in a form of an identification document, that is not expired by more than five years. If unable to vote in person, you can cast your vote by proxy. Further information, including the list of candidates will become available in the weeks to come.

For the Non-Dutch citizens
If you are a national of one of the EU Member States, are over 18 years old and has not been excluded for legal reasons, you are eligible to participate in the EU elections in the municipality of Amsterdam. Because of the current state of the Brexit negotiations, British nationals are also being advised to register. All EU citizens living abroad have two, mutually exclusive options:

First, you can vote for candidates from your home country. In this case, the rules and requirement of the voting process depend entirely on your home country. Most commonly used voting method for citizens residing abroad is pre-registration and casting a vote at a national embassy. Some Member States, like Germany, Spain and Sweden, also allow voting by post. Belgian and French citizens can vote by proxy, while Estonia also allows e-voting. Citizens of Czech Republic, Ireland, Malta and Slovakia however, cannot cast their vote outside of their national borders. For finding guidelines specific to your home country, you can use the How to vote? app.

The second option is voting for the Dutch candidates for the EP. This is possible if you register as a voter no later than 9 April. Yes, it’s soon but it will only take a few minutes so here are the procedures:

  • If you have a DigiD or Citizen Service Number (BSN) you can submit your request online.
  • If you don’t have a DigiD or Citizen Service Number (BSN) use one a form, available in English, French and German. This form needs to be handed in at the City Office or emailed to verkiezingen@amsterdam.nl.

After a successful finishing this procedure, you become a registered voter and the same rules apply for you as they do for Dutch nationals. You will receive an invitation to cast your vote including a poll card, at your registered address, no later than 14 days prior to the election day. The poll card allows you to vote in any polling station within the municipality’s borders. The addresses of polling stations will be made available at amsterdam.nl/verkiezingen. To cast a vote, all voters must present proof of identity in a form of an identification document, that is not expired by more than five years. Further information, including the list of candidates will become available in the weeks to come.

Also, it will give you bitching rights about whatever is to come.

Whether you just scrolled down or actually read through this article, I would just like to say one thing: GO VOTE. It’ll only take you an hour out of your day and if you just turned 18 it might be a new experience. Also, it will give you bitching rights about whatever is to come. If you do your duty and vote, then you have more authority when criticizing whatever the EU parliament decides on.

 

Stay tuned for more (fun) coverage of the EU elections by the Medium TV and podcast.

 

Cover: Pexels

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