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November 15, 2008

The sticker that keeps on sticking
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 10:28 AM * 67 comments

So I got an envelope in the post yesterday, from the hoogheemraadschap Hollands Noorderkwartier (that’s an English language page link, there). It’s the local water board, which is an institution of huge importance here in the Netherlands, for both historical and pragmatic reasions. A nation that was created by its struggle against the sea puts a lot of emphasis on the management of water.

Inside the envelope was my ballot for the 2008 water board elections. It took me about 20‡ minutes to read the notes on the ballot, which were a general statement of How to Vote, Why I Should Vote, and Why Water is Important in Noord-Holland. The classic phrase “droge voeten” (dry feet, the stated goal of Dutch water engineering throughout the nation’s history) appears three times on a single page.

My first impulse, looking at the complexity of the issues that I’m going to have to grasp to vote was to say tl;dr and fold it back up. What use would my incomer’s ignorance be?

But my husband put the matter into focus for me. He said he had considered not putting the time in to figure out who was who on the ballot; we have very little background to build on, and we are both very busy. But that the recent US election had rearranged his priorities. “It’s worth spending the time to do this,” he said. “Voting is important.”

Note that he is not an American citizen.

The US election has symbolic effects that reach far beyond the nation’s borders. You know about the value of positive campaigning, and the impact of our President-Elect’s ethnicity. But don’t forget the impact of a (fairly*) clean election on the watching world.

I’ll leave you to contemplate that; I have a bunch of Dutch to read. Gotta earn the next layer of glue on my I VOTED sticker†.


‡ my reading speed in Dutch is just about exactly an order of magnitude slower than it is in English.
* The ACORN narrative never really gained traction in Europe
virtual sticker, I’m afraid, since I voted absentee.

Comments on The sticker that keeps on sticking:
#1 ::: Max Kaehn ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2008, 01:29 PM:

Excellent!

I've made a habit of researching opinions on all the candidates and propositions on my local ballot and blogging the results to save headaches for my friends and coworkers. (Propositions usually wind up with tables of pro and con opinions, candidates usually wind up with lists of endorsements and grades from organizations that issue them.) It's an extra level of effort from just reading up on the issues, but the thanks I get from my fellow voters makes it worthwhile.

#2 ::: Alex ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2008, 02:17 PM:

So, which faction in the savage snakepit of northern Dutch water-engineering politics did you back? I'm looking forward to regular posts on the topic.

#3 ::: Connie H. ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2008, 04:04 PM:

Just out of curiosity, how do you pronounce 'droga voeten'? The spelling is just Anglo-Saxon enough to be simple to decipher, but I'm betting the pronunciation is nothing like I have in my head. ("drah-ga feht-en" for the record)

#4 ::: Abi's Husband ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2008, 04:06 PM:

To elaborate slightly: my first impulse was not to vote on the basis that abstaining is a neutral position. "I don't know enough about the situation, so I'm not going to get involved."

But that argument is bogus: abstaining is not neutral. I have very strong views on a lot of matters. A vote gives me the opportunity to express those views, and to make a difference. If I don't acquaint myself with the political positions of parties standing for election, then the absence of my vote for a party may strengthen the position of one I disagree with.

Recent US elections, where hugely important matters have been determined by the slimmest of margins have really hammered that point home to me. (Note: I always voted in UK elections before we moved to NL, but the margins in recent years have generally been pretty decisive, with the result that they didn't focus my mind quite as strongly.)

#5 ::: Abi's Husband ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2008, 04:10 PM:

Connie (#3): something like "DROGUE-uh VOO-tuh". Depending on what part of the country you're from, the "g" is soft and mellifluous like in the Scottish "loch", or pronounced in a guttural fashion, like someone being strangled while suffering from a catarrh-ravaged chest cold.

#6 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2008, 04:30 PM:

The ballot paper pointed me at a site called kieskompas (compass choice), which gauges one's views based on the following themes:
- charges
- management changes
- democracy
- dikes and paths
- economy and ecology
- energy and climate change
- nature and recreation
- plants and animals
- polder and landscape
- water
- water requirements
- living and working

Views are collected by presenting a bunch of statements, with which one can agree or disagree, strongly or weakly, be neutral on, or skip without answering. Examples include "People who live in lower-lying areas should pay more water rates", "National political parties should not be involved in water politics", "In order to protect dikes and riverbanks, muskrats may be killed," "The greenhouse effect is overstated", "Algal blooms can be fought using chemical herbicides", "Uninhabited farmland may be flooded to prevent flooding in towns", and "Anglers should pay a higher fee to improve the water quality for fish." (There were more questions than that.)

I found it difficult, because these statements obviously have a lot of history behind them. I would have been interested to know the alternatives to some of them.

Once I had answered all of the questions, my views were plotted on a graph with an X-axis ranging from "broad remit" to "narrow remit", and a Y-axis ranging from "ecology" at the top to "economy" at the bottom. I am apparently a slightly economy-focused mildly broad-remit voter.

Interestingly enough, one theme of the questions did not come up as an axis on the chart: the line from individual rights and responsibilities to social cohesion and support. Many of the questions touched on this, from the possibility of different rates for different elevations, through questions about homebuilders having to pay for drainage, to matters of flooding farmland to save cities. (In a connected ecology like the Netherlands, I tend toward the communal-responsibility end of the spectrum, though I think there are specific optional costs that the individual should bear.)

The kieskompas then compares your answers to those of all of the parties, and plots how much you disagree with them. So I can see that I am about 1% off of the Algemene Waterschappartij (probably best translated as the People's Water-Board Party).

But not all questions are equally important. I care less about angling fees and more about the costs to low-lying areas, for instance; I am more interested in a party that is seriously concerned about global warming than I am about one that focuses on muskrats. So I've been going through the questions one by one, comparing my answers to those of various parties.

Further bulletins as events warrant.

#7 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2008, 04:44 PM:

People reading comment 5, from my better half, should know that the "zachte g" (soft g) that he describes as "soft and mellifluous" is one of the markers of his particular and distinctive regional accent in Dutch (from Limburg, in the extreme south). They're very proud of it down there.

What he does not mention is what Limburgs people do to the letter R while they are so tenderly caressing their G's. The Limburgs R is full of throaty vibrato, and sounds rather like a man trying to gargle whilst fighting off a pack of wolves*. It's distinctive enough that there is a specific verb in Dutch, brouwen, which means "to pronounce one's R's like a southerner".

I am immensely fond of the sound†, and disposed to like every Limburger who says any word with an R in it as a result. But that's not to say it's beautiful in the abstract.

------
* ob42
† yes, yes, because of him

#8 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2008, 05:18 PM:

Abi's Husband, @4:

I figure abstaining is appropriate if I really don't have an opinion on something (this is why, for example, I don't send in ballots to pick all-star sports teams) or have neither sufficient information nor the time/ability to acquire it. That latter is the tricky part: for example, we have elections for local judges here, in which it is difficult to learn anything relevant or useful about most of the candidates. In practice, this means people do things like vote a straight party line, or (especially in the primary elections) choose candidates based on the apparent ethnicity and/or gender of the candidates. ("Apparent" because one year, back in the 1970s, a black man won a seat in part on the basis of votes from people who probably believed that "Jocelyn Smith" was an Irish-American woman.)

#9 ::: Janet Lafler ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2008, 05:40 PM:

virtual sticker, I’m afraid, since I voted absentee.

An "I voted" sticker was included with my absentee-voting packet. A nice touch, I thought.

#10 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2008, 05:42 PM:

Vicki @8: There were rumours something similar happened in appointing our new G-G, Quentin Bryce (Official Site).

I couldn't possibly say such a thing.

#11 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2008, 05:45 PM:

abi,

I find it curious that the local water board lets you vote, when you're not an EU citizen. Is this a peculiarity of the water boards, or is it something more general in the Netherlands?

#12 ::: Steve Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2008, 05:47 PM:

abi at #7 writes:

> * ob42

ob42? Obligatory Hitchhikers reference?

#13 ::: Alex ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2008, 05:50 PM:

It's usual, in fact required, for citizens of other EU states to be able to vote in local elections, and obviously in European Parliament ones. A member state could permit other EU nationals to vote in its national elections if it wanted; I'm not aware of any that do.

#14 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2008, 05:58 PM:

Peter Erwin @11:
I find it curious that the local water board lets you vote, when you're not an EU citizen. Is this a peculiarity of the water boards, or is it something more general in the Netherlands?

Actually, I am an EU citizen; I'm dual American and British*. Getting my British citizenship (for which I qualified through long residency) made settling in the Netherlands much, much easier.

But anyway, voting rights for the water board are based on residency rather than citizenship. Water boards are kind of strange in Dutch culture; water politics formed the country, and waterworks created its strongly collectivist and cooperative mindset. It makes sense within that culture that this intensely physical and geographical election should be based on residency rather than citizenship. No flood will check my passport, after all.

I don't think that this is the case for general elections. I must check, and also see what the British registrar thinks of us now.

-----
* Which is more important to me? Well, to quote Robert Louis Stevenson, the old land is the true love, the others are but pleasant infidelities. I'd not have gotten the British if I'd had to give up the US.

#15 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2008, 06:00 PM:

Steve Taylor @12:
ob42? Obligatory Hitchhikers reference?

Yep. I just compared my husband's accent to Vogon.

I'm sleeping in the guest room tonight, at this rate.

#16 ::: Abi's Husband ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2008, 06:09 PM:

Our daughter is 4 years old, and attending the local Dutch primary school, where she is acquiring a traditional Noord-Hollands accent, including the aforementioned hard "g". When she says "goed" (good) it sounds like she is trying to get hork up a hairball. Breaks my heart.

Maybe it's best if you sleep in the guest room. That way you won't hear me sobbing myself to sleep.

#17 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2008, 06:09 PM:

Alex @13:
It's usual, in fact required, for citizens of other EU states to be able to vote in local elections

Noted for future elections, but this one is not based on citizenship at all. Per the ballot:

Who can vote
For this election, Dutch residents can vote if they:
- live in the district on the date of the candidate announcement (16 September)
- are 18 years old or older on the last day of voting (25 November) and have not lost their voting rights.

(OK, the ballot actually says all that in Dutch, which I will not utter here, but it can be rendered thus in the common tongue of this website.)

#18 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2008, 06:13 PM:

Hub @16:
Maybe it's best if you sleep in the guest room. That way you won't hear me sobbing myself to sleep.

True. Nor will I wake up to hear you talking in your sleep in Dutch, something with lots of R's, and mistake it for a revving motorbike on the road behind the house.

#19 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2008, 06:14 PM:

abi @14: "I'd not have gotten the British if I'd had to give up the US."

This (having more than one citizenship) is an area in which Britain is quite liberal. A friend of mine was born in the US because her parents were working there. Reaching 18, she carefully applied for her US passport first - because she had to state that she didn't have one from another country - then applied for her British passport (not a problem already having one from another country).

More on-topic, I found the list of issues you gave fascinating. I like the fact that there was scope for five levels of reply, not just yes/no - I hate that sort.

#20 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2008, 06:27 PM:

dcb@19:
I found the list of issues you gave fascinating.

I should translate the rest, actually - it was an interesting list.

I like the fact that there was scope for five levels of reply, not just yes/no - I hate that sort.

The one weakness I can think of in the scoring is that the difference between "I agree" and "I disagree" (2 steps) is the same as that between "I don't care" and "I strongly agree/disagree". But I would consider the former difference to be more significant than the latter.

But there will be flaws in any model. There's only so much a number can tell you in these circumstances. I think they did a good job with it. And apparently this sort of thing is not uncommon in other political circumstances...probably a good thing, given the complexity of the Dutch political system.

#21 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2008, 06:34 PM:

Alex @ 13:
Yes, indeed; in some coastal Spanish towns there are actually political parties focused on (mostly British) expat issues. (E.g., this BBC article from 2007.)

abi @ 14:
OK, I stand corrected. And it's quite interesting to learn that the Dutch do allow non-EU residents to vote in such elections. (Arguably quite sensible and just -- as you point out -- but unusual nonetheless.)

#22 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2008, 06:47 PM:

Vicki, #8: I have to confess that I cheat; my partner and I are on the mailing list to get the endorsement mailer from the local GLBT interest group, and I figure that anyone they're willing to back probably doesn't have any views that I would find truly heinous. So I generally vote the way they recommend, unless I've had a specific reason to do my own research about a particular race.

#23 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2008, 07:31 PM:

OK, the full set of statements...some of them are sensible, and some are just plain loopy (though my sensible may very well be someone else's loopy).

Charges:
Water rates can be used for maintenance of the landscape.
People who live in low-lying areas should pay more water rates.
City dwellers should pay more water rates than people in the countryside.

Management Changes:
Parts of the water management system should, if possible, be privatized.
The head of the water management board should be directly elected. [currently this is an appointed position]
Farms and businesses should be able to self-regulate on environmental issues under their control.

Democracy:
National political parties should not be involved in water politics.
Water boards don't need to be controlled democratically.
EU rulings should generally be directly carried out by water boards [I think this means, as opposed to waiting for compliant legislation from the Dutch government]

Dikes and paths:
Water boards must care for footpaths atop the dikes, even if this costs extra.
In order to protect dikes and riverbanks, muskrats may be killed.
To keep costs down, polder dikes won't be raised, notwithstanding the safety risk.

Economy and ecology:
Farm and garden land may be expropriated if required for natural development
The water board may only use eco-friendly (green) energy.
Water board members must make their knowledge freely available to poorer countries.

Energy and climate change:
People who catch their own rainwater should get a subsidy.
Costs incurred through rising sea levels may lead to higher water rates.
The greenhouse effect is overstated.

Nature and recreation:
The mooring of boats in nature reserves must be banned.
Anglers should pay a higher fee to improve the water quality for fish.
The water board should contribute to the cost of water sport facilities.

Plants and animals:
Ditches are intended to move water quickly and not for plants and animals.
Algal blooms can be fought using chemical herbicides.
The water level can be raised to benefit dune flora, even if it comes at the cost of bulb growers.

Polder and landscape:
Land intended for building on can be sacrificed for water.
The water board may never use chemical weed killer.
The water board is not responsible for the upkeep of cultural artifacts.

Water:
Farmers should pay any extra costs for draining agricultural land.
In order to improve drainage, paved gardens should be banned.
Separating sewer water and rainwater should not lead to higher costs for citizens or businesses.

Water requirements:
Concrete defenses against rising sea levels should be built at the North Sea coast.
During severe droughts people should not be allowed to use groundwater or surface water to wash their cars or water their gardens.
Unoccupied polders may be flooded to prevent flooding in towns.

Living and working:
House building should only occur where there is no risk of flooding.
Water levels in peat meadows must fall with the sinking land to preserve agriculture.
Residences and businesses should pay for extra water storage in their districts.

Translating this has taught me how many words the Dutch have for the types of land peculiar to the country here (landschap, platteland, polder, veenweidegebied, landbouwgrond...) and for waterways and their associated architecture.

Neat.

#24 ::: Janet Lafler ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2008, 09:10 PM:

dcb @19 -- The U.S. has actually relaxed somewhat on the subject of dual citizenship. When my aunt became a British citizen in the late 1960's, she had to formally renounce her U.S. citizenship. The laws were changed sometime during the 1970's, so all of her children -- who were born in Britain when she was still a U.S. citizen -- are eligible for dual citizenship while she is not.

#25 ::: Janet Lafler ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2008, 09:10 PM:

dcb @19 -- The U.S. has actually relaxed somewhat on the subject of dual citizenship. When my aunt became a British citizen in the late 1960's, she had to formally renounce her U.S. citizenship. The laws were changed sometime during the 1970's, so all of her children -- who were born in Britain when she was still a U.S. citizen -- are eligible for dual citizenship while she is not.

#26 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2008, 10:09 PM:

Janet @24/25:

Your aunt might be eligible for dual citzenship as well. A friend of mine moved to Australia around 1970, and became an Australian citizen not long thereafter. (I met her, through fannish networks, long after she'd done so,) At the time, that meant giving up her U.S. citizenship. Sometime in the 1990s, I think, she asked to get it back, and from what she said the process was fairly straightforward—and that there was someone at the embassy to explain her U.S. income tax obligations.

#27 ::: grackle ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2008, 10:10 PM:

"like someone being strangled while suffering from a catarrh-ravaged chest cold."
"and sounds rather like a man trying to gargle whilst fighting off a pack of wolves."
"it sounds like she is trying to get hork up a hairball."
"and mistake it for a revving motorbike on the road behind the house."

You have the beginnings of an excellent Dutch pronunciation guide here.

#28 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2008, 12:14 AM:

Rich Wales has a good overview of US/other dual citizenship law.

When I last renewed my US passport (before the RFID chips went into them), I had to answer that I had acquired an additional citizenship (Ireland); I also included a signed statement that it was done with the intent of retaining my US citizenship (as evidenced by the intervening six years of residing in, voting in, and paying taxes in the US). No difficulties resulted.

The only issue I have had was when the airline didn't put the right passport's info in their data feed to the US immigration officials for my return flight; the officer was slightly confused as to why my info didn't automatically come up in the computer, but it wasn't a real problem.

#29 ::: ErrolC ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2008, 04:24 AM:

#9 An "I voted" sticker was included with my absentee-voting packet. A nice touch, I thought.

I was mildly peeved when I saw people with "I voted" stickers on New Zealand's election day, having not been offered one when I voted a week earlier. Given that they prefer you to advance vote (easily available at several places in your and neighbouring electorates) than special vote (available with more hassle at any polling booth on the day), they should have given me one per day remaining until election day.

#30 ::: modallist ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2008, 07:07 AM:

Hah! I live in Utrecht (or, to stay in context, Hoogheemraadschap De Stichtse Rijnlanden) which feels linguistically somewhat on the border between the mellifluous and the guttural (although I'm actually a northern boy raised in the tradition of good old hard-g's and rolling-r's). It's nice to hear the variety here, and I once had a boyfriend from the deep south of Limburg...

Anyway, I am glad you take the time to get informed, Abi. The Waterschapsverkiezingen are far less glamorous than the national elections, but the issues are not getting any less pressing.

I wish they gave out "Ik heb gestemd!" stickers overhere, though.

#31 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2008, 09:44 AM:

My early-voting "I voted" was actually a metal tab I pinched down over the collar of my coat. More permanent than a sticker, certainly.

#32 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2008, 09:55 AM:

I have a feeling that a great deal of the world would be better run if more of us paid attention to the unglamorous nitty-gritty stuff like this, and fewer became obsessed with the grand, glittery campaigns of high ideals which then usually got thrown aside in favor of political reality.

The tl;dr defense probably protects many a pocket of wastefulness or evil from the public's wrath.

#33 ::: Jen Roth ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2008, 10:06 AM:

When did the "I voted" stickers come into common use? I don't remember always getting one (I first voted in 1992). It certainly seems that the pride in having one, and the sort of camaraderie that has sprung up around it, has increased in recent years.

#34 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2008, 10:31 AM:

The day after I got back from the hospital, I was able to walk down the hill (very slowly) to our polling place, and after voting walk back (ditto). I did get to sit down both while waiting a short time for a booth, and then during the voting itself -- I guess my invalidish state was still apparent. But I was very happy to put that sticker on my purse, and then to stay up late that one night to get the election results.

Can't feel too proud of myself, though, since my Down East mother-in-law just told me, over the phone, that when she had an operation she was pretty much back to normal and going about her business a few days later! (Also, most of the people who mention their surgery to me went through more complicated operations than I had.)

#35 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2008, 10:50 AM:

albatross @32 -- my mom has worked at polling sites for a number of years. We were talking about the long lines* on election day. She noted that things would have gone even more slowly if people had actually stopped to consider every item on their ballot. It seemed pretty clear that they were zipping in and out after 'only' voting the Presidential item. Still, I'm encouraged that there was more voter turnout.

Regarding voting the whole ballot, I don't vote for everything/everyone because I vote absentee, and haven't lived in Florida for over 20 years. There are some things I feel I just don't have a stake in anymore, and couldn't realistically make an informed choice.

*interesting reaction from one of my ESL students on the day after the election: He had seen pictures of the long lines on TV, and said it made it appear as if officials were completely unprepared for the number of voters.

#36 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2008, 11:29 AM:

Faren @34: Every patient responds differently. Surgery is controlled trauma, and your surgeons' skills are also part of the hidden factors which determine your return to full speed. There's little things like pre-op nutrition, and your response to post-op medications -- so there's a lot of reasons for your recovery to move at a different speed than someone else.

It might not be a huge difference, like the difference between being hit by a bicycle versus a truck; it is probably more like being hit by a fully loaded truck versus an empty truck. Still, you've been hit by the proverbial truck, and are recovering. I'd give you kudos for getting out and voting, and then recommend you take it easy on yourself.

#37 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2008, 12:14 PM:

Faren: No, you ought to feel proud. Each of us has to live with what we have to live with. If it was hard, it was hard.

You did a good thing. If I can be proud that I went out to vote for a guy who was gonna win my state, and for the losing side in one of the most important issues in the nation, all of this with nary a moment of pain in the process, you should be proud that you did it when it was hard.

#38 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2008, 12:40 PM:

Thanks for the kind words above, but I have to make a correction/confession: I voted one week, not one day, after coming home. (One day later I mainly lay around, feeling cranky.) I'm sure things were complicated by the anaesthetics, which left me vomiting for most of a day after surgery and kept me in the hospital somewhat longer than originally recommended.

At any rate, I'm still very happy to have gotten to the polls when I did.

#39 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2008, 05:44 PM:

abi #14: The City of New York permits parents of children in the public schools to vote in school board elections, and to present themselves as candidates for the Board, regardless of their citizenship status. That is to say, whether or not they are US citizens or legally admitted resident aliens. I don't know if any other municipalities in the US do this or anything comparable.

#40 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2008, 06:34 PM:

Janet Lafler @ 24, Christopher Davis @ 28:

Interesting. I distinctly remember my friend telling me (this would have been about 1986-1988) how important it was for her to get the US passport first. Maybe it's different if the US citizenship is the "main" one?

abi @ 23

Thanks for the full list. Even more interesting. Glad to see that aspects such as wildlife and ecology are thought about. Here in London we've never been given the opportunity to vote on things like Water Board decisions. There is a change (recent or about to come in) requiring planning permission before someone paves over their front garden for parking - someone has obviously finally worked out that this makes a difference to run-off and filling of storm drains. Hopefully they will make people put in the more expensive structures where the rain can still get between the concrete bits and into the soil.

#41 ::: Jasper Janssen ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2008, 07:59 PM:

Kieskompas, and related sites, have been available for the past 10 years or so, and getting more important as time went on (the News on the national public TV had an english one for the US elections, interestingly, which was even visited by people from the US itself).

Elections here are usually for one type of thing at a time -- water boards, EU parliament, provincial states (which indirectly elect the first chamber along with their own responsibilities), local (municipal), and national (the second chamber). For each big election, there are typically about two dozen parties represented, with about 2 to 4 big ones, 8 or so small ones, and the rest no-hopers not likely to get a seat. Each party can have up to 60+ candidates, although there's generally a fair proportion between "expected seats" and the number of candidates.

Given the ballot paper, which can thus have several hundred options for your one single vote (when you're voting for the second chamber, that's 150 seats, and if you're not on the ballot you don't get in under any circumstances, so there's a lot more than 150 candidates), it's no wonder that help-with-voting sites spring up.

Of course, almost everyone votes for the front runner of one party or another (the votes trickle down to lower-placed party members, so generally the first n cvandidates on the list get in), or sometimes the number 2 or 3 (my mother, for example, always votes for the first woman on the list for the party she wants in). Very occasionally a low-placed candidate will get enough preferential votes to get in even if s/he's low enough on the list to otherwise not get in, but this is News if it happens. This means the actual choice is only between the 10 or so parties.

#42 ::: grackle ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2008, 08:11 PM:

I'm still worrying about the poor sweet little muskrats, unwilling immigrants, brought on slave ships to the east, to live lives of misery, cultivated only for the skins on their backs, having escaped their preordained fates, only to be classified as vermin, and to listed under dikes and paths, not under the more appropriate, the kinder, plants and animals. Who will speak for them?

#43 ::: edward oleander ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2008, 08:43 PM:

Muzkratz ar gud eetz! Me haz sum now? Nom nom nom kthxbai!

#44 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2008, 09:20 PM:

Someone's waterboarding muskrats? I'm not in favour of that.

#45 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2008, 10:59 PM:

They're not even rats! The poor Abenaki musquash, ripped from its homeland and sent to far Nederlands to be exploited for its fur and meat -- should it not at least die with dignity and not like a rat?

#46 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2008, 11:08 PM:

Debbie, #35, we had the choice of just presidential or the entire ballot. Luke, whom I was helping, and I both took the entire ballot.

FraganoFragano

#47 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2008, 09:56 AM:

dcb (#40): it's certainly simpler to get the US passport first even under current law and policy, since it saves you one round of explanations.

Most likely, though, she didn't know all the various issues (not surprising, since there are consular officials who don't know them either) and thought that it was a strict requirement. At the time, it could have become an issue; however, it's one that she almost certainly would have won on, since her British citizenship wasn't through naturalization and presumably didn't require a renunciation oath.

(Given the 9th Circuit ruling in the 1985 Richards case, any renunciation oath requirement would have been an issue.)

#48 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2008, 10:04 AM:

Jasper Janssen #41: "Of course, almost everyone votes for the front runner of one party or another."

I like your use of the phrase 'front runner' instead of 'list-header'.

#49 ::: modallist ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2008, 12:15 PM:

grackle @42 Who will speak for them?

The Party for the Animals... (seriously!)

#50 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2008, 02:28 PM:

I have a feeling that a great deal of the world would be better run if more of us paid attention to the unglamorous nitty-gritty stuff like this, and fewer became obsessed with the grand, glittery campaigns of high ideals which then usually got thrown aside in favor of political reality.

I certainly hope the reverse isn't true and we don't see the Dutch water board elections taking on the tactics of the US presidential campaigns.

"Of course, my friends, what Mr van Obama isn't telling us is that he's secretly pro-flood. In fact, his birth certificate shows that is really a closet amphibian!"

#51 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2008, 02:43 PM:

ajay @50:

Now, that kind of campaigning is as useful as lipstick on a muskrat.

#52 ::: Leroy F. Berven ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2008, 03:59 PM:

abi @ 51: At least the media feeding frenzy should be brief, since the topic provides only modest nutriational value.

#53 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2008, 05:48 PM:

Christopher Davis @ 47
No, no renunciation oath required for the British citizenship. I don't think they (British Passport office) even bothered to ask if you had another passport back then (can't remember if they do now).

#54 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2008, 06:13 PM:

"... In fact, his birth certificate shows that is really a closet amphibian!"

My God, you mean he's actually French?

#55 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2008, 06:39 PM:

Not only did the British passport office not mind me having another citizenship, but I was actually encouraged to apply for British citizenship while getting my US passport stamped on entry to the UK.

I replied that I didn't want to give up my US citizenship. The immigration officer gave me a leaflet on British citizenship and suggested I look into the matter.

#56 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2008, 09:10 PM:

Hey, abi, what the buzz on this whole unfit-to-be-a-mother legislation thingie? Is that a genuine issue, or some fringe thing, or what?

(And if it's a genuine issue, then I agree with the question about why it's proposed that only women would be required to take drugs to prevent conception if their parenting skills are deemed unacceptable.)

Er, on the other hand, if this is too explosive a topic, just, um, delete.

#57 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2008, 09:48 PM:

Fragano, #39, I don't know what happened to my earlier post up there, it looked fine when I clicked, but I was saying that would never happend here where we spend a lot of time and money getting rid of Hispanics.

#58 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2008, 10:30 PM:

Elise, #56: No opinion about the topic without further data, but what got my dander up in the article itself was calling the use of chemical contraceptives "sterilization". NOT. Sterilization is a permanent procedure; chemical birth control results in a temporary period of infertility (barring unpredictable side effects). Using the term "sterilization" for this strikes me as deliberately inflammatory.

#59 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2008, 12:15 AM:

Abi... Gotta earn the next layer of glue on my I VOTED sticker

Mine supposedly is on its way, and I've already chosen a spot for it in the back of our minivan because, the day after the Election, someone stole my "Obama" magnetized sticker.

#60 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2008, 03:55 AM:

elise @56:
Hey, abi, what the buzz on this whole unfit-to-be-a-mother legislation thingie? Is that a genuine issue, or some fringe thing, or what?

There isn't really a buzz. It's like all those silly, stupid laws that legislators propose all over the world. It has minimal chance of passing and something like zero chance of being implemented, since it violates both the Dutch constitution and European human rights legislation.

It's not getting any notice at all in the Dutch press I read (which is admittedly very little, mostly in English, and mainstream). I think it's another one of those cases where people who want to talk about issues in their own countries pick up some fringe piece of Dutch culture, out of context, and spin it into a rant about what's happening closer to home. I admit to having got tired of it long ago, when it was euthanasia that was the topic du jour.

As Lee says, the use of the word "sterilization" is a clue. So is the complex fantasy that the Guardian blogger spins before even he admits that it's not likely to go anywhere.

Sensationalism it is. Oxygen of publicity give it not.

#61 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2008, 10:45 PM:

Ah. Good to know. Thank you.

#62 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2008, 02:37 PM:

It should be known that I have told our daughter that whenever her dad is sad, she should go up to him and say "goed" two or three times.

Because he likes it when she says that. See? He's laughing.

No, dear, those are just tears of laughter. Because he loves you and is proud of your Dutch.

Go on, say it again.

#63 ::: Rosa ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2008, 04:37 PM:

I assume all the US politics followers know that here in Minnesota our Senate race is STILL going on.

They started the recount yesterday, and MPR has the statute on how we count votes and some pictures of contested ballots up on their web site

http://minnesota.publicradio.org/features/2008/11/19_challenged_ballots/

The pictures are really interesting, though the comments are awful - The Internetz seem to be unaware that some people may have physical, visual, or cognitive problems and still be voting citizens.

#64 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2008, 08:20 PM:

abi:

Are you encouraging your kids to goed your husband?

#65 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2008, 02:47 AM:

albatross,

Only my daughter. My son doesn't have the accent to provoke the reaction.

Sadly, he's pulled a muscle in his chest (coughing), and can't laugh at the moment. Which rather spoils the fun.

#66 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2008, 08:28 AM:

Rosa @ #63, wow. Those pictures are enlightening.

#67 ::: Rosa ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2008, 10:42 AM:

Yeah, aren't they? In most cases the intent seems pretty clear, and the ones where it isn't the judges seem to be agreeing to throw them out.

It makes me really happy that we have a voting statute that demands interpretation of intent, instead of technical guidelines.

Also I hope the Lizard People voter is as ashamed as my coworker who voted 3rd party because she didn't think Franken had a chance - as the gap narrows she feels worse and worse. (Third party is a completely valid choice, especially in this race; but she did it as sort of a throw-away vote and regrets it.)

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