What if I do not have time on the election day?

If you cannot go to a voting station on the election day, it is possible to apply for an absentee ballot. You will find a form on the back of the electoral notification that has been sent to you. Then you will receive your voting documents per post, so that you can fill them out at home before election day and then send them back.

On the back of your voting notification you will find a form and often also an email address, web address or a QR code. You can use these to apply for absentee voting. You can find out more in our video.

What are an election assistant's tasks?

Many helping hands are needed during an election. The election assistants are individuals, who are themselves entitled to vote and all of them work voluntarily. They distribute the ballots, check whether the voter is at the right voting station, and count the votes after the voting time is over. If you are eligible to vote, you can register as a volunteer at your town hall, citizens advice bureau or district office.

What does the German law say regarding elections?

Elections must meet the following requirments in Germany:

  • Public: All German citizens can elect or be elected if they are at least 18 years of age.
  • Direct: Members of parliament are elected directly or through party lists, not by electors, e.g. in the Electoral College System in the USA.
  • Free: There is no compulsory voting, and no one can be forced to vote.
  • Equal: Each voice counts same as others.
  • Confidential: only the total result is published. The individual choices of voters remain secret.

What does “five percent hurdle” mean?

In the Federal election (and to some extent, state elections) there is a so-called “5% hurddle”(„Fünf-Prozent-Hürde“) the parties have to pass. That means Each party must, receive at least five percent of the votes or three direct mandates to be able to enter the parliament. The “hurdle” is supposed to prevent the fragmentations which the presence of too many small parties might cause in the parliament.

How is the government formed?

As a result of the distinctive electoral system in Germany, it is hardly possible for a single party to form a government. To do so, a party would have to win more than 50% of the mandates. So the coalition among parties is a norm. That means two or more competing parties will form a coalition and govern the country together. That's why the parties often communicate their possible coalition partners before the elections.

How high is the participation rate?

In each election, the voter turnout is measured, that is the percentage of eligible citizens who actually took part in the election. The level of participation in the “Bundestag” election is traditionally high in Germany. In the seventies, it was over 90 percent. Since reunification in 1990, it was 80 percent. In 2017, 76,2% of the eligible citizens participated in the election. 

How can I become politically active?

Even if you are not allowed to vote, there are many other ways you can become politically active.

  • You can, for instance, join a citizens' initiative ("Bürgerinitiative"). In citizens' initiatives, people work together for a cause, such as building a street or protecting a park. After the goal has been reached, the citizens' initiative usually dissolves.
  • If you want to get involved politically for a long-term cause, an interest group ("Interessensverband") could be an option. Here you can commit to a specific issue, e.g. for more environmental protection or workers rights.
  • You can also join a party, found a partner- or sub-organisation of a German party, or work in local communities at migrant organizations or integration advisory council. To learn more about German political scene, read our chapter political parties in Germany.