Electoral Reform in the Netherlands

On December 14, 2006, the Netherlands Citizens’ Assembly officially presented its proposal to the Dutch government. The proposal won in a final vote on November 10 between two possible reforms. The first proposed reform was a slightly amended version of the current voting system that would replace the D’Hondt method of seat allocation with the STV method of seat allocation. The second proposed reform was a switch to an open party list system. The final proposal supported the latter of these two choices.

The D’Hondt method of seat allocation is also known as the Jefferson method and the highest averages method. In the Netherlands, the D’Hondt method is used to allocate seats in a closed party list voting system. Each voter is allowed to vote for one party list of ranked candidates. After the votes are tallied, averages are calculated in order to determine the number of seats each party receives. The formula for this average is V/(s+1), where V is the number of votes each party list received and s is the number of seats the party has been allocated so far. At the beginning, the value of s is 0. The party with the highest average gets the seat. Each round of averaging determines which party gets the next seat. In the Netherlands, each party had to meet a minimum threshold of votes before it could be allocated any seats. In the final vote at the Citizens’ Assembly, the proposal that lost supported keeping the closed party list system but replacing the D’Hondt method with the STV method of seat allocation. The STV method, also known as the Hare method and choice voting, uses list-preferential voting to transfer surplus and wasted votes until a minimum threshold is met for each seat.

To learn more about choice voting, check out FairVote's Choice Voting page.

The proposal that the Assembly presented calls for the implementation of an open party list system to replace the current system. The proposed system would allow voters to vote for either a party list or a candidate. The seats would be allocated proportionally based on the amount of votes each party received from the list votes and candidate votes. For example, if party A wins 50-seats, and if 40% of party A’s votes came from party list votes and 60% came from candidate votes, then 20-seats will be filled using the party list and 30-seats will be filled by the 30-candidates who received the most personal votes. The proposal also calls for the elimination of the minimum threshold requirement.

The Netherlands government is currently considering the proposal. Part of the Assembly’s final report includes advice for future electoral reforms. One of the pieces of advice the report gives is “to organize citizens' assemblies more often as it is a great way to involve citizens and to let the people speak.” Many of the members felt very optimistic about the Assembly’s success. One member of the Netherlands Citizens’ Assembly, David Hulshuis, said that the members “have done a wonderful job! I surely hope there will be more projects like these in the Netherlands, and should I ever have the chance to be part of a citizens' assembly again, I definitely won't need to think twice!”

Media on the Netherlands Citizens' Assembly

Official Website of the Netherlands Citizens' Assebmly: The website is in Dutch. Click here to translate the text into English.

Citizens Assembly Blog: Update of the Netherlands Citizens' Assembly: J.H. Snider issues the latest update on the Dutch Citizens' Assembly on his blog.

Fruits and Votes Blog: Dutch Electoral Reform Proposal: Professor Shugart critiques the Assembly's proposed recommendations.

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