Voting in Germany

If you’re resident in Germany you can vote in some German elections

Voting in a national election is a right reserved for German nationals from the age of 18. Any German national eligible to vote is also eligible to stand in an election.

EU citizens resident for at least three months in Germany are legally entitled to vote and stand for election in certain German elections, specifically:

  • Local Communal Elections
  • European Parliamentary Elections

EU citizens voting in a European Parliamentary election in Germany choose to do so instead of voting in their country of citizenship. Information can be obtained from the voting office (Wahlamt) of the local town hall (Rathaus).

Non-EU citizens may not vote in Germany, but may be elected by foreign members of the local community on to the Foreigners’ Advisory Councils (Ausländerbeiräte). These are advisory boards for local politics.

Registering to Vote in Communal Elections

All those resident in Germany who have completed the obligatory police registration procedure (polizeiliche Anmeldung) and who are legally entitled to vote will automatically receive a voting card (Wahlschein).

If no voting card is received and a person believes they are legally entitled to vote, an application can be made either in person at the voting office (Wahlamt) of the local town hall, by e-mail or by fax but not by telephone.

The following documents are required:

  • Police registration form (polizeiliche Anmeldung)
  • Proof of identity (passport)
  • Proof of residency in the country for a minimum of three months

Once the application to vote (Antrag) has been completed and approved, a voting card will be issued entitling the person to vote.

The voting process

Local or communal elections to communal parliaments (Kommunalparlamente) take place to elect a mayor (Oberbürgermeister or Bürgermeister) for cities and towns or a chief administrative officer (Landrat) in rural districts. Mayors or chief administrative officers are usually elected for a term of six years, but this may differ from one district or Federal State to another.

Voters have two votes:

  1. For the direct candidate (Erststimme) standing within and for the constituency.
  2. For a political party to represent the region (Zweitestimme).
    Note: The candidate to whom the first vote is given does not have to represent the party selected in the second vote.

How to vote

A short time before the election a voting information card (Wahlbenachrichtigung) is sent to voters.

On polling day, go to the appropriate polling station taking:

  • Voter registration card (Wahlschein)
  • Proof of residency (Anmeldung)
  • Proof of identity (passport or driving licence)

The ballot papers (Stimmzettel) of all candidates and an envelope will be given.

  • Go into a polling booth and vote
  • Place the marked ballots in the envelope
  • Put the envelope into the ballot box

The name will be crossed off the list of voters to show that the person has voted.

Absentee voting

Anyone who is unable to vote on the assigned day may vote by proxy.

Accepted reasons for absenteeism are:

  • Professional reasons
  • Illness or advanced age or disability or other physical condition which would prevent the voter from getting to the polling station. Disabled voters are advised to contact their polling station beforehand to find out if there are access facilities for the disabled or whether they need to register to vote by proxy
  • If a person moves out of the area immediately prior to the election and there is not enough time to re-register on the electoral roll at the new voting office

The voting information card which is sent to all those entitled to vote has a proxy request slip (Antrag) on the reverse side which must be completed and returned by post to the local town hall. It may also be completed in person at the respective voting office at the town hall. Some voting offices also offer the option of applying by e-mail.

In the event of sudden illness exceptions can be made for a proxy vote to be granted on the day of the election itself.

The following documents are sent to voters to vote by proxy:

  • An official ballot paper (Stimmzettel)
  • An official voting card (Wahlschein)
  • An official (blue) envelope for the proxy vote
  • An official (red) envelope in which to place the blue envelope
  • A detailed instruction brochure on how to vote by proxy

Once completed, the red envelope must be returned by post to the local voting office (Wahlamt).

European Parliamentary Elections

All EU citizens may vote in the European Parliamentary Elections. A citizen may only vote once per election and only from the place in which they are registered to vote.

By voting in Germany, the EU citizen votes for their choice of German representative to the European Parliament. And after voting in Germany the EU national loses their right to vote in another State of the Union (anyone doing so may be fined and imprisoned).

Info courtesy of AngloINFO Hamburg



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