What types of election exist here?

  • At the Parliament Election ("Bundestagswahl"), the members of the parliament are elected. They, in turn, elect the Federal Chancellor. 
  • The State Elections ("Landtagswahl") take place every five years-although not simultaneously- in all the 16 federal states. Bremen is the only city in which the election happens every four years. The state parliaments have different names in different cities: In Hamburg and Bremen it is called "Bürgerschaft". In Berlin, it is called "Abgeordnetenhaus" or "House of Representatives", and in all other federal states it is known as "Landtag".
  • In Municipal Elections ("Kommunalwahl"), people elect political representatives for the local councils and town councils, as well as mayors and district administrators. As an EU citizen, you can take part in the municipal elections, even without German citizenship.
  • German nationals, like all other EU citizens, elect their representatives in the European Parliament ("Europawahl") every five years. In the European elections, each citizen can only choose and vote for one party.

Who can vote?

In the Bundestag election, all people who are over 18 years old and have German citizenship can vote.

In the State elections (“Landtagswahlen”), all people who are over 18 years old and have German citizenship can vote. In Brandenburg, Schleswig-Holstein, Bremen and Hamburg, you can vote from the age of 16- German citizenship remains a requirement.

All German citizens and EU citizens who have lived in Germany for more than three months can vote in the municipal/ local elections (“Kommunalwahlen”). The minimum age depends on the state. In Saxony, Saarland, Rhineland-Palatinate, Hesse and Bavaria, only people aged 18 and over are allowed to vote. In other federal states, you can vote in local elections from the age of 16.

Furthermore, all adult EU citizens are allowed to vote in the European elections.

Who can get elected?

Anyone who is over 18 and has German citizenship may run as a candidate and get elected. State election in Hesse is the only exceptions: candidates must be at least 21 years old and have German citizenship.

When do the elections take place?

In principle, elections in Germany are always held on Sundays as most people don't work and have time to go to cast their votes. But there is also always the possibility to vote in advance per post. However, you have to apply for the postal vote. As person entitled to vote, a few weeks before each election you will receive a voting notification where you can find detailed information about postal vote.

How many votes does each citizen have?

In the federal, state and local elections, all voters have two votes: the first and the second vote. With the first vote, voters elect a candidate from their constituency (“direct election”). They give their second vote to the list of a specific party ("proportional representation"). The second vote is more significant as it determines the distribution of seats in the parliaments. The system mentioned above is also known as "personalized election on the basis of proportional representation" ("personalisierte Verhältniswahl").

In state elections, the right to vote and thus also the number of votes differ depending on the federal state. In most federal states, the system of "personalized election on the basis of proportional representation" ("personalisierte Verhältniswahl") also applies to state elections. The voters, therefore, have a first vote and a second vote.

In local elections, the right to vote and thus the number of votes differ depending on the federal state.

In the European elections, you only have one vote to elect a party.

How does the voting process work?

All voters will receive an "electoral notification" ("Wahlbenachrichtigung") by post with the address of the relevant voting stations, no later than three weeks before the election day. The voting stations are temporarily set up in schools or other public buildings. Election booths are set up within the polling stations. When entering the polling station, electoral assistants will ask for your name, ID and electoral notification to mark you out of the voter's list after you cast your vote. This ensures that everyone gets to vote only once. The voter receives the ballot, goes into one of the election booths and marks his or her two choices on the ballot (first and second vote). The cabins are used for privacy so that voters cannot see eachother’s ballot. After the voter mark his or her choices, the ballot is folded and cast into the sealed ballot box.

Important: If you have not received an electoral notification despite being eligible to vote, contact your city administration.