Dutch election: Government to ease rules for mail-in ballots

The Dutch government on Tuesday said that it would adjust rules for accepting mail-in ballots in an ongoing national election, after reports people had made a minor mistake in the procedure, Reuters reported.

The election, in which PM Mark Rutte's conservative VVD Party is expected to gain enough support to secure a fourth term, is running for three days, March 15-17, to allow social distancing room at polling stations. In addition, people 70 years and older were allowed to vote by mail for the first time.

An estimated 6% of voters cast a ballot in person on the 15th, with the lion's share expected to vote in person on the 17th. Mail-in votes have already been received but will not be tallied until the 17th, with roughly a third of eligible seniors expected to vote by mail.

After reports of mistakes, Interior Affairs Minister Kasja Ollongren said in a letter to parliament on Tuesday that ballots from voters who had included their voting pass in an inner envolope, rather than outside it in a second envelope as instructed, would be counted anyway.

The postal votes of Dutch nationals abroad processed one week before the election date. Voters outside the Netherlands vote by letter by default.

As coronavirus infections in the Netherlands are rising at the fastest pace in months, the National Institute for Health (RIVM) has advised against easing lockdown measures, saying that hospitals could still be overwhelmed in a third wave of the pandemic driven by more contagious variants.

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