This week, there are 3 elections I could have participated in (and one indirect election). And I will vote in none. Here’s why.
Israeli legislative election on the 17th of March
This one’s easy – I can’t. Israeli law only allows citizens of Israel to vote in Israel. In other countries, one can vote abroad or, like in the Netherlands, authorise someone else to vote for you. Not in Israel. You actually have to be in the country and vote in your place of residence, unless you are a diplomat or an air crew member or something. Actually, I don’t mind. I’ve been living outside of Israel for the past 12 years and I see a logic in only giving the people that actually live there the right to vote over the country’s future and the spending of their taxes.
Dutch provincial elections, on the 18th of March
On the 18th I get to vote in the provincial elections. The Dutch provinces are the administrative layer supposed to be taking care of the tasks too big for the municipalities but too petty for the national government. I could not name a single person in the elective body governing my province if my life depended on it. And I am not alone in it – the vast majority of the Dutch have no idea who takes seat in the provincial ruling body, what their tasks are and how they do these tasks. The province is a fossil remain of times long gone, and as far as I can tell it can be abolished ASAP, and no one would notice. Tasks too big for municipalities to handle can and are being handled perfectly well by (cross-border) regional co-operations of several neighbouring municipalities. The only reason the country is even aware of the provincial elections is because the Provincial Deputees elect the Senate, the upper house of the Dutch parliament, a council of old fools who get to approve or disapprove any laws voted on by the Tweede Kamer, the actual national parliament. As a consequence, all debates in the run-up to the provincial elections have focused on nation-wide issues, and not a word has been said on the reason to have provinces in the first place.
District water board elections, held together with the provincial elections on the 18th of March
This is where, as the Dutch say, “my clog breaks”. Get this – I get a say in what political parties are ruling the ground water levels! I mean – really? Its the oldest Dutch democratically elected body, and its very obviously one that is long past its due date. We don’t get a vote on who’s mending the road surfaces or monitors the air traffic, do we? We’ve got professionals to do these sort of things nowadays. The participation rates in the water board elections are even lower than in the provincial elections. Only about 1/4th of the voters bother. I’d say it it a clear sign these elections are irrelevant. The water boards, on the other hand, defend their right to exist by saying “if only the public knew how important our job is, they would vote”.
Well, I know. I am a geohydrologist and I have had ample opportunity to work with water boards. I wouldn’t go as far as saying they are perfectly useless. We do need people to manage ground water levels and monitor possible sources of pollution. Its just that we do not need so many of them. Allow me to illustrate with an example. Say you want to drill a well. You need a permit. Not one, no. Depending on the depth of your well, the soil layer you are aiming for, the use of the water you will pump (industry, drinking water, irrigation etc.), the amount of water you will pump and other details I will not bother you with, you’d have to deal with the municipality, the water board, the province, the national water authority, one or several Ministry’s, and, if your project is big enough, the European Union. I can tell you from experience that among these people there is a huge amount of overlap. And conflict of interests. Not to mention random variation in laws and regulation across local, provincial and water board borders. So why would I vote for a governing body I consider totally irrelevant?
I know, there are people out there who are fighting for their right to vote. But I get to vote in elections I couldn’t care less about and can’t vote for the people I actually consider important. How about electing my local mayor? In case you didn’t know, in the Netherlands, the mayors and the heads of province are actually appointed by the Dutch Crown. Hello? 21st century calling? Not in the Netherlands, it’s not.