Voting behavior of regional council members in the Netherlands is hidden on most regional council websites. Even though regional councils publish basic democratic information such as lists of decrees and minutes on their websites, there is a huge difference in the way voting behavior can be found. This is the conclusion of a research (pdf) done by Open State on the availability and accessibility of information on twelve Dutch regional council websites.
The province of Friesland lists separate voting lists in which individual votes of council members can be found. In the province of North Brabant, this information can only be found in the actual minutes. Other provinces only provide information on the voting behavior per political party. The province of Overijssel only indicates when parties vote differently. Names of individual members, however, are not mentioned.
Open State recently published the result of a research on the availability and accessibility of basic democratic information of municipal councils. The conclusion of that research was that such democratic information on many municipal websites is difficult to find.
The two provinces with well-organized websites are North Holland and Gelderland. These provinces provide clear links to relevant democratic information and per meeting is visible what information is available. Provinces that score significantly less are Overijssel, Zeeland and Limburg. The province of Limburg, for example, uses three different information systems that make information hard to find. There are no open, structured, machine-readable standards in which provincial council information is offered. Only six provinces have an open data portal but information of regional councils is not part of it.
`When only after endless searching and much hassle citizens and journalists can see what members of regional councils have done the past four years, it negatively affects the democratic quality of regional administration. Minutes of council meetings, voting records, decisions, budgets and spending need to be easily found’, says Arjan El Fassed of Open State Foundation. `These are basic democratic information needs’.
Open State urges provinces to publish democratic information online in a standardized and structured machine-readable format. If these regional councils want citizens to be more involved then the information gap between citizens and governments must be reduced.