Election fraud case attracts attention in the Netherlands

POSTED: 05/4/14 10:52 PM

Court in The Hague handles petition to ban stemfies

THE HAGUE / GREAT BAY – St. Maarten’s election fraud investigation received unexpected media coverage in the Netherlands yesterday when the court in The Hague dealt with a petition from the Platform Protection Civil Rights to outlaw so-called stemfies, pictures voters take of themselves showing for whom they voted.

Stemfies – a variation on selfies – became a minor hype during the municipal elections on March 19 in the Netherlands, when politicians and others came out with pictures that showed their vote. D66-leader Alexander Pechtold was among them. Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk tweeted that day: “I do not call for making stemfies, but they are allowed.”

The Platform Protection Civil Rights has a different opinion and it went to court to force a ban on stemfies. The director of the cabinet of Minister Plenipotentiary Mathias Voges, Perry Geerlings, attended the court hearing and he was promptly interviewed by a reporter for the Dutch NOS TV-News. The reporter referred to the election fraud case in St. Maarten and turned it into a case about stemfies. The court in St. Maarten has scheduled the election fraud trial for August 4.

Geerlings enlightened the reported in veiled terms, without mentioning the United People’s party as the buyer of the votes. “”This is a case about a number of individuals who apparently have sold their vote to a party,” Geerlings said diplomatically. “As proof they took a picture of their voting behavior. With that evidence they went to a third person and said, look, I voted for you or for your party. There was of course a favor in return.”

That favor was an amount of $300 in cash for each vote, but that detail did not come out in the TV-report.

The attorney for the platform, Douwe Linders, conceded that initially the stemfie was kind of fun. “The problem is however that if you take a picture of the way you voted, you are able to prove later whom you voted for. There is a risk that someone will ask you beforehand to vote for a certain party and to prove this afterwards. This way there is a risk of influencing voting behavior and that endangers the right to free elections.”

Linders said that he did not know how often this happened during the municipal elections in March.

The NOS-reporter continued his story by saying that “St. Maarten wants a ban on the stemfie” – which is true in the sense that before previous elections Lt. Governor Franklin Richards has called on the electorate not to take cell phones equipped with cameras into the voting booth. Members of Parliament also have made noise about taking pictures in the voting booth but a real ban on stemfies is not in order – at least not yet. The government works on a proposal to remove the black curtains from the voting booths so that secretly taking pictures becomes at least more difficult.

The attorney for the Dutch state, Eric Daalder, defended the selfie in court yesterday: “It is important to establish that making and distributing a stemfie is the personal choice of the voter. He is allowed to do that, but he does not have to do it. Conclusion – the law does not prohibit it.”

The court in The Hague will pronounce its verdict next week.


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