The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

With 28 parties running, Dutch voters have to use these really huge ballots

A woman presents an election ballot for Dutch general election on March 15 in Rotterdam. (Marco de Swart/ANP via AFP)

The Dutch are voting, and much of the world is watching to see whether far-right populist Geert Wilders will come out on top.

But Wilders and his party, the Party for Freedom (PVV), are far from the only force in the election. A record 28 parties are competing for the 150 seats in the lower house of Dutch parliament, known as the Tweede Kamer.

In practical terms, this has a very obvious effect on voting day: The Dutch ballots are enormous. So enormous, in fact, that people can't stop sharing photos of them.

This list of parties includes not only relatively large parties like the PVV or the current government leaders, the People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD), but plenty of smaller parties that have a narrower political view. For example, there is a party dedicated to animal rights (the Party for the Animals; PvdD), another that fights for the rights of pensioners (50PLUS), a new party that targets the votes of immigrants (Denk) and a party that pledges to represent the “non-voters” (Niet Stemmers).

The ballot includes not only the 28 parties, but also their list of candidates — hence its enormity.

The sheer size of the ballot seems unlikely to put off voters, however. Turnout during the last election, when there were 21 parties running, was 74.6 percent of registered voters (which is almost all citizens of voting age in the Netherlands). Early signs are suggesting that the turnout could dwarf that election.

Once all the votes are in, then more arduous work begins. This year's elections are being counted by hand due to concerns that electronic systems could be hacked. And even when the votes are finally counted, it may take a long time to find out what the next government looks like: It's thought that an agreement will have to be reached between four to six parties to form a coalition, which could take months.

Read more:

The Dutch election is bigger than Geert Wilders

Dutch vote in an immigration-focused election with consequences for all of Europe

The Dutch have a problem: Who will they vote for?

What you need to know about the Netherlands’ big election