Polling places saw strong turnout for today's election in the Netherlands, with 55 percent of voters casting a ballot before 6 p.m. local time, according to local media. The crowd was manageable at a house in Marle, in the eastern Netherlands, that's hosted a voting booth for decades.
While Holland's national vote is being seen as a barometer of populism, it's also reminding us of the wide range of polling places in Holland, from a gleaming high-rise to an old windmill.
It's not a challenge for the Westhoff family to reach a voting booth; there's one in their living room at the bed and breakfast they run in Marle. In an arrangement that goes back to 1948, the Westhoffs' farm house has hosted voters in their small community of fewer than 100 people. The town is nestled between a river and a dike — a geography that can make it hard to visit nearby polling stations.
It's been years since the property was a commercial farm, the Westhoss say on their website. But, they add, "There are still animals: some cows, five donkeys, two dogs and a cat."
A comparison of photos from today and from the 2010 election shows that Wim and Elly Westhoff have kept their house as tidy as ever — and this time around, they've added a bit more color to their décor. They've also removed a carpet runner that protected their wood floors.
While the Netherlands' high voter turnout was expected, due to the divisive and passionate debates over nationalism and inclusion that have gripped parts of Europe, we have to think that other nations could boost voter participation if they put more ballot booths in quaint houses.
It also wouldn't hurt to follow the Westhoffs' example, and lay out some fresh-baked bread on the coffee table.
Other polling places in the Netherlands include a maritime museum and a cafe; a historic church and a beachfront. And while there's also a ballot box set up on the 20th floor of The A'dam Tower in Amsterdam, we wouldn't mind exercising democracy — or simply visiting — a windmill in Oisterwijk that's been converted into a voting booth in south central Netherlands.