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Campaign aims to get foreigners the vote

Hannah Cleaver · 17 Aug 2011, 07:11

Published: 17 Aug 2011 07:11 GMT+02:00

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A range of events are being staged across Berlin to fire up a debate about how to people without German passports can become more included in German politics.

Christian Miess, coordinator at the Jede Stimme 2011 association, told The Local the idea was not to promote a particular model of voting rights, but to get people talking about different ideas of how to include more people to vote on the politicians whose decisions affect their lives.

Currently, non-German citizens of other European Union countries can vote in municipal elections, but are barred from taking part in state or national polls. Citizens from other countries cannot vote at all, regardless of how long they have lived or paid taxes in Germany.

There are around 460,000 people living in Germany’s capital who are of voting age, but cannot take part in the decision on who runs their city, according to the group.

Miess said Jede Stimme 2011 was acting as a coordinator and hub, linking many diverse groups from different communities across the city.

“We are connected with many different organisations, many Turkish-German groups and small neighbourhood groups, more than 50 in total. We are also working with the Berliner Fenster which provides the television on underground trains,” he said.

A bevy of locations are being set up across the city where foreigners will be able to vote between August 29 and September 4.

“This is only the first time we are organising the shadow vote, so we have no idea how many people will take part,” said Miess.

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“We are hoping for 5,000 or 6,000 but it could be many more. Germans will also be able to vote there – we will have questionnaires on if they want to see voting rights expanded to include other people.”

A string of events are also being organised to get people together to talk about the situation, with each other as well as politicians who have been invited.

One highlight will take place at the Berlin city parliament and will include not only Christian Hanke, Mitte district mayor, but also colleagues from Poland, Luxembourg and The Netherlands, to talk about alternative models of political participation migrants in different countries.

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Hannah Cleaver (hannah.cleaver@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

10:07 August 17, 2011 by freechoice
Now it would be interesting to find out how many people living in Germany who have been living and paying taxes are not allowed to vote?
10:26 August 17, 2011 by Jibzy
As a foreigner, i disagree. I think that voting should only be the right of the nationals. If a foreigner becomes a national, he has taken steps to be naturalized and therefore is fine if he votes. But "temporary" people, shouldnt be allowed to vote. German nationals should be allowed to shape their society the way they want.
10:35 August 17, 2011 by pepsionice
Here's the deal (I know because I've been through the game). A foreigner who carries the work visa and pays taxes....gets a note shortly before each election to remind them that they actually can vote. But your vote only concerns this representative who sits in the Bundestag who represents foreigners. It doesn't count toward local politics, your village, your region, etc.

A bit of advice here....for those who may fall into this situation as Americans and work for the US gov't with security clearances....it's best you decline and not vote because it just starts to beg questions when your clearance comes up for review.

As for the voting activists....my guess is that they want to force up the issue of foreigners in local elections and shake up normal politics. If you could allow foreign voters to participate in local elections....you might be able to shift power to more unusual or radical regional parties.
11:16 August 17, 2011 by Asgarli
This should have been done long ago! Foreigners who pay taxes should have also some impact on this society, a representative of foreigners in Bundestag is just too small of a representation that people that live here with foreign nationalities have!
11:35 August 17, 2011 by freechoice
yeah NDP votes will go down, stopping the state funding!
13:25 August 17, 2011 by frankiep

.....or, it might **** off a lot of Germans who don't think very highly of non-German citizens moving here and immediately deciding who will govern the country and drive them right into the arms of the NPD (who of course will be waiting there with a big smile and a "We told you so").
13:37 August 17, 2011 by PiggyPoo
I don't think "visitors" who have just stepped off a plane/boat/train should be able to vote here, but people (like me :-) ) who have lived in Germany for over 20 years, have always worked during their time here and dutifully paid their taxes should have the right to have their say. I am aware that I could take dual nationality, but I refuse to cough up 255 Euronen for what adds up to a Perso and a vote.

When I left England I was told I was no longer able to vote there, as I no longer had an abode in Blighty. In Germany, I'm not allowed to vote because I'm a foreigner. Something's not quite right...
14:17 August 17, 2011 by frankiep
It's just my opinion that if someone is not born in a country that they should not be able to have a say in who will run that country without first proving that you are committed to the country in the form of citizenship.

You say that you feel that you should be able to vote in national elections in Germany because you have lived here for 20 years. Yet you do not want to go through the steps required to gain citizenship. A German might then ask why you should be able to determine the direction of the country when you could very easily go back to what is still, by law, considered your "home country" if things go bad.

Voting in national elections is a very serious matter and it only makes sense that a country would want to make sure that those who are not from here have committed themselves to the future of the nation. Citizenship is the best way of verifying this.
16:33 August 17, 2011 by The-ex-pat
Simple, if you want to vote, become a citizen. The tax that you pay has nothing to do with it. Paying tax in your home country does not make you eligible to vote (which is a shame, with the amount of people on benefits) so why should paying tax in your adopted country give that right. Also, partisan voting could have a very detrimental effect to the government of a country. A person or party could get elected because of who they are and not what they believe or stand for.
16:54 August 17, 2011 by ECSNatale
i have lived in this country for 12 years. I pay taxes, I enjoy the benefits of society and should I wish to vote here, I have been given the opportunity to become a citizen. If I choose to retain my citizenship of my birth, why should that give me a right to vote here in Germany?

I disagree vehemently with these people... unless of course they want to give Germany the right to vote in Turkey or the US, or where ever. It is just silliness.
17:08 August 17, 2011 by Der Grenadier aus Aachen
What possible rationale is there for allowing someone who is not a German citizen, and who has not promised fealty to Germany in any way, to vote at the national level?

If you want to decide Germany's future; become a German citizen. Invest some of yourself into the country before asking the country to invest power in you.
17:17 August 17, 2011 by neunElf
To even dignify this lunacy with a debate is laughable!

Some of you act as though you were kidnapped and brought here against your will!

It is your decision to maintain your citizenship in a country other than where you are resident. With that decision come consequences.
17:41 August 17, 2011 by Englishted
If I join a club and pay subs. to it I think I should have a say in how it is run,correct? so why not a country ?.

I don't really need a vote as the ones running it have made enough cock ups without my help.
18:07 August 17, 2011 by michael4096
"taxation without representation" is ok

how things can change in 200 years
18:12 August 17, 2011 by The-ex-pat
As someone who has taken citizenship and can vote let me tell, you are not missing out on anything. The last time I voted, I was given three ballot papers, one of which was almost two feet long. No wonder we always end up with a coalition or more accurately a country run by committee and we all know just how much committees get done................
21:32 August 17, 2011 by Alofat
No citizenship, no vote
23:16 August 17, 2011 by PiggyPoo
Hmmm...I seem to have (unintentionally) put the cat among the pigeons here...

The one point that everybody seems to have ignored is that I can't vote anywhere!


"No citizenship, no vote"

I have UK citizenship, but I can't vote there, either.

That's what I find a little strange. I'm a "legal" European, but I'm not allowed to vote (anywhere).
23:43 August 17, 2011 by krautrock
Vote for who? They're all the same. Take the energy issue for example....
09:57 August 18, 2011 by PiggyPoo
@Englishted and The-ex-pat:

:-) My better half (who is German, BTW) is of the same opinion as you two. :-)


Naja, the hairstyles vary... :-D
11:06 August 18, 2011 by DocEllis
Why does everyone think voting is such a sacred cow. Voting is expressing your views about the world you live in. Why is everyone so afraid to allow someone else to vote.

I am American by birth and the USA has some of the worst, most oppressive voting rights laws since South Africa. The USA is borderline Facist in some of their voting oppression.

Voting is something everyone who is a legal resident should be allowed to do. To deny someone the right to cast their choice influencing their views of the world around them is oppression. I am totally against any type of oppression.

So stop trying to disqualify someone for expressing their opion or choice or say so about the world they live in and embrace their choice as a freedom for them and a freedom for you. Because their freedom is your freedom.


A tax paying legal German resident without the power to cast my choices in the world in which I live.
09:22 August 19, 2011 by frankiep

I don't want to sound rude here, but honestly, no one is stopping you from being able to vote. You have just made the choice that it is simply not important enough for you. If it was important enough for you to vote in your home country then you could move back there and you would be eligible to vote immediately. I understand though that you no longer wish to live there, so you have given up that right.

You also have been living here in Germany for what I am assuming is a very long time, yet you refuse to to pay what amounts to a small administrative fee to gain citizenship, and the right to vote which goes along with it. It is not at all an unreasonable request to ask an immigrant who has been living in a country for 20 years to pay a small fee to become a citizen before being allowed to vote.

Again, I don't want to sound rude at all, but it sounds like you want it both ways. You want to be able to vote in the UK where you haven't lived in a long time, and I'm guessing don't plan on ever living there again. Plus you would want to be able to vote in Germany without having to take on responsibilities which come with obtaining citizenship.
13:47 August 22, 2011 by PiggyPoo

I don't know if this will get read now - I was away for a couple of days and had no chance to reply.

You appear to have misunderstood me. I most certainly do not "want it both ways". The "right to vote" is something that is repeatedly harped on about by human rights activists. My view is that everybody should have the opportunity to vote, in ONE country only.

I no longer live in England and have no wish to vote there. However, I feel that the red tape surrounding the processing of citizenship in Germany is extremely ausländerfeindlich. Perhaps it is different where you live, but the employees at the Einwohnermeldeamt here, which is responsible for processing such matters, are some of the most arrogant I have ever encountered, regardless of how friendly and polite the "customers" are.

Also, you and I have differing views as to what constitutes "a small fee".

If I take dual nationality, I receive a Perso and can vote. I fail to see what "responsibilities" you are referring to.

We'll just have to differ on this one.
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