How does voting work for you?

On March 18, there will be elections for the provinces and water authorities (waterschappen) in the Netherlands. Even foreign residents can have a say on the water management. EM asked international students if they’d vote either in Rotterdam or in their home country.

Changxin Miao (19), Bachelor of Internal business administration from China

“It is a bit complicated with the municipal elections in China. All Chinese people can elect the representative of their district for the county. Then, all the county representatives vote for the one from the city. And then, there is a conference for the province. But there are no campaigns or public speeches. So in reality, no one votes. Once a year, there is a conference at a local canteen and there people of higher ranks elect the representative. The major national elections are held every five years. Everyone can vote there, but we still don’t. This is because sometimes you know who will win beforehand. There is one party in China and it decides who will be the next chairman. In Holland, I will only vote for the water department when I know enough information about the situation in Rotterdam, the candidates and their policies.”

Christopher Stairiker (26), Immunology Master student at Erasmus MC from the United States

“Voting is quite a serious deal in the US. Everyone gets assigned to a particular voting district and is only allowed to vote there. It is really officially regulated. So when I moved from Doyle’s town to Pittsburg, which is in the same state, they won’t let me vote until I re-register. It takes a couple of weeks to switch, but people are usually not even willing to take the trouble. For candidates it is easier, in theory. Anyone can run at the municipal level, but independent parties don’t go further unless they have a huge backing. Personally, I vote only at the major elections in the US. Here, I would vote for the waterschappen, since I am in Rotterdam for more than a year. As much as it is important to let residents have a say, I think it only makes sense if you are staying here for a longer time.”

Aleksandra Wierzbicka (23), Managament Master student at RSM from Poland

“Generally, I tried to vote in all the elections, but now I am not in Poland most of the time. So I only get a permission to vote abroad for the presidential elections. The municipal elections are usually for separate districts in the bigger cities and in the country side it is for an area. I think it is important to vote. You don’t want people who stand for different ideas to rule your district and decide what the money goes for.  So young people don’t only vote, but are also quite engaged in politics. You can easily register as a candidate and run independently. I actually even have a 23-year-old friend who ran for municipal elections and won. I’ve got a leaflet about Rotterdam elections in my mailbox. That was in Dutch, so I did not get most of it, but I know anyone can vote for the water authorities. Actually, I don’t think it’s good that people who have no idea about water management can still make a difference with their vote.”