Status: 10.09.2021 8:39 p.m.
More groups are allowed to vote in the Bundestag election than before. But the right to vote still provides for exceptions in which the right to vote is denied or made more difficult. An overview.
According to an estimate by the Federal Statistical Office, around 60.4 million people will be eligible to vote on September 26, 2021, including around 31.2 million women and 29.2 million men – including Germans who live abroad.
According to the federal electoral law, all Germans are entitled to vote who have reached the age of 18 on election day, have lived in the Federal Republic of Germany for at least three months or are otherwise habitual and are not excluded from the right to vote as convicted criminals by a court order.
Why are minors not allowed to vote?
The legal justification for this is still the lack of maturity. Although there are regular initiatives to reduce the voting age to 16 years, age is still the key requirement for entry into the Bundestag election, along with nationality. Most recently, in May of this year, an initiative by the Greens was rejected in the Bundestag. In further draft laws, the FDP and the Greens are calling for 16 and 17-year-olds to be granted the right to vote for the Bundestag and the European Parliament in future elections.
The FDP parliamentary group criticizes that currently more than 1.5 million German citizens between the ages of 16 and 18 are denied the right to vote because of their age alone. “People of this age are equally capable of taking responsibility and communicating their political will appropriately,” argue the MPs. Exclusion from the right to vote is therefore not justifiable.
However, several federal states have already opened municipal elections for this age group, some even the state elections – such as Brandenburg.
Which “Germans abroad” are excluded from voting?
Germans abroad who are not registered in Germany are also referred to as “Germans abroad”. You only have a limited right to vote in Germany: You are still entitled to vote if you have either lived in the Federal Republic of Germany for at least three consecutive months after reaching the age of 14 and this stay was no longer than 25 years ago – or if you have for other reasons “have acquired personal and direct familiarity with the political situation in the Federal Republic of Germany and are affected by them”. This applies, for example, to pensioners with German citizenship who continue to have a (not notifiable) holiday home in Germany.
However, this group is not officially entered in a voter register. If Germans abroad want to participate in federal elections, they must submit a written application for entry in the electoral roll of the responsible municipality before each election. Namely, only those who are entered in a voter register can vote. “So far, a good 24,000 Germans abroad have registered for this federal election in the electoral roll,” said Federal Returning Officer Georg Thiel.
Germans who only stay abroad temporarily – for example during a longer vacation – and are still registered in Germany are automatically entered in the electoral register of their municipality by the electoral office. You can exercise your right to vote by postal vote.
Are foreigners allowed to vote?
Foreign nationals without German citizenship have no active or passive right to vote in the federal elections, state elections or referendums at the federal or state level.
According to EU law, an exception now applies to citizens from member states of the European Union, but only for the municipal electoral level. According to the Federal Ministry of the Interior, there is no obligation to introduce a right to vote for EU citizens to participate in elections at the state level, i.e. in elections to the German Bundestag or to the state parliaments.
Nationwide, around 11.4 million people with foreign citizenship or stateless persons were registered in Germany at the end of the year. According to the “Tagesspiegel”, 9.5 million non-German nationals over 20 years of age are not currently allowed to vote.
Who has been excluded from the right to vote so far?
In February 2019, the Federal Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe overturned previous provisions of German electoral law, according to which certain groups of people with disabilities or mental illnesses were excluded from the right to vote. It was about People with disabilities who were permanently dependent on care to take care of all matters. Federal suffrage has so far prohibited this group from participating in elections.
Even those who are in a psychiatric hospital because they have committed a crime, but were incapable of guilt, have so far been excluded from the right to vote. The Karlsruhe judges saw this as a violation of the constitutional principle of the general public of elections. It would also put people at a disadvantage because of a disability or illness.
At the beginning of 2019, the Federal Constitutional Court decided for this year’s general election that the general exclusion from elections for mentally or psychologically impaired people is unconstitutional – that these groups of voters can no longer be excluded across the board.
When can the right to vote be denied by a judge?
According to the Federal Returning Officer, eligible voters may only be deprived of their right to vote through a judicial judgment. This is only possible in a few cases – and it may not be a lifelong decision, but only for “two to a maximum of five years”. The conditions are clearly defined: You can be deprived of the right to vote if you have been sentenced to imprisonment of at least six months or at least one year, for example for the following criminal offenses. These include, for example, “preparing a war of aggression and high treason against the federal government”, “treason and revelation of state secrets”, “electoral obstruction and falsification of election documents” or “bribery of parliamentarians”.
How can the homeless and homeless vote?
People without a permanent residence retain their right to vote. But: You have to try harder to be able to practice it than people with permanent residence. Because no voting notification can be sent to them by post in the mailbox.
Homeless citizens without a registered address are not listed in their municipality’s electoral roll. You have to register on the electoral roll. The eligible voters do not have to appear personally at the office. A further application must then be made for a postal vote. Social services and homeless support institutions can also submit collective applications for several people at the same time.