Election Board recommends to prohibit stemfies
In May 2014, we initiated summary proceedings against the State by the Stichting Bescherming Burgerrechten (a civil rights foundation) and Lucas Kruijswijk regarding the so-called “stemfies”. We claimed that stemfies infringe the secrecy of the ballot. The Dutch District Court of The Hague ruled that stemfies are in violation with the secrecy of the ballot. However, since there is no Dutch law explicitly prohibiting stemfies, the Court felt it had no other choice than to deny the claims. Thus, stemfies were still allowed. Today, the Election Board (Kiesraad) recommended the Dutch minister of Internal Affairs to prohibit stemfies.
Stemfies are “selfies” – pictures taken of yourself – of filled out ballot papers taken in the polling booth. These photos were very popular during the last municipal election in March 2014. Especially because the Dutch minister of Internal Affairs encouraged voters to make such photos on Twitter.
The District Court of The Hague
On 9 May 2014, the Dutch District Court of The Hague ruled that
“it is not to the courts to rule whether it was wise of the minister to communicate that it is allowed to take photos of ballot papers in the polling booths.”
It is up to the Dutch minister to decide whether stemfies should be prohibited. As a consequence, stemfies were not prohibited during the European Parliament election on 22 may 2014, but allowed them as long as they
“do not disturb the public order, or harm other voters right to secrecy of the ballot.”
The Election Board
Today, the Election Board concluded in their recommendation on the evaluation of the last two elections that the Dutch minister should prohibit stemfies. According to the Board, photos in polling booths might violate the freedom to vote and the secrecy of the ballot. These fundamental principles require that
“every possibility that voters might be coerced or feel pressured to vote for a certain party and/or candidate, must be prevented.”
This is in line with our pleadings (Dutch only) in the stemfie-case, of May 2014. The Board recommends to prohibit pictures in the polling booth that show both the voter and the vote.
The Board also refers to several domestic traditions. For example, Belgium, South-Africa, the Philippines and several States in America prohibit pictures that show both the voter and its vote. In other countries, such as Finland, pictures as such are prohibited in polling booths.
The Dutch District Court and the Election Board have given their judgement and recommendation on the stemfies, now it is up to the Dutch minister of Internal Affairs to end the debate.
Author: Sam van Velze