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Election time is just around the corner and there’s not a soul in the city that isn’t aware. You’ll find political flyers and banners hung on every lamp post in Düsseldorf – CDU, SPD, AfD, DFP, Die Grünen, Volt, you name it, you’ll find it!

Every time elections come around, even though I know I’m not legally allowed to vote in Germany, I still get a boost of excitement knowing that change (hopefully good change) may be right around the corner.

This year, I received a polling card in the mail for elections and was a little confused. Did any of you receive this letter too? 

Vote in Germany - Expats - 1
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I knew I wasn’t able to vote in this year’s elections as a non-EU immigrant, but what was I being invited to vote for then? 

 

Can expats and immigrants vote in Germany?

Those with German citizenship have the right to vote in Germany, but are we as expats and immigrants also allowed to vote? Well, if you are an EU citizen, you are able to vote in two of the elections:

  • Your local elections (Kommunalwahlen) – only if you are an EU citizen and registered in the city of Düsseldorf
  • The EU elections (Europawahlen) – you will need to choose to vote in your home country or in Germany, not both, and let the Electoral Office (Amt für Statistik und Wahlen) know at least 21 days before election day if you choose to vote in Germany

The overall rule in Germany is that non-EU citizens are not allowed to vote. However, we are still able to vote for the members of the Integrationsrat.

Aha! That’s why many of us as expats and immigrants have also received polling cards in the mail. We can vote for the members of the Integrationsrat.

 

As an expat or immigrant, in order to vote for Düsseldorfs Integrationsrat you need to:

  • Be at least 16 years of age (for all other elections, at least 18 years of age)
  • Have lived in Germany for at least 1 year
  • Have lived in Düsseldorf since at least August 28, 2020 (this date will change for future elections)

If you meet all of the above qualifications and haven’t received your polling card in the mail (at least 3 weeks before election day), make sure you contact the Electoral Office (Amt für Statistik und Wahlen) to make sure that you are added to the registered list of voters.

 

What does “Integrationsrat” mean in English? 

The Integrationsrat is the Integration Council which is part of the city council here in Düsseldorf (or whichever city in Germany). This council allows people with a migration background the opportunity to be heard. The Integration Council is made of up a group of 10 volunteer migrants who are elected into the council.

This council works together and directly with the members of the Council of the City of Düsseldorf to make sure that our voices as expats and immigrants can be heard.

The Integration Council focuses on the cities questions regarding integration. For example, the Integration Council would be the ones to decide how migrant organizations are recognized and promoted in the city, as well as develop new ideas for future integration of people and organizations. They are also responsible for public relations and events regarding immigration into the city.

 

How can you stay updated on what our Integration Council is up to?

The Integration Council of Düsseldorf hosts public meetings in the Townhall every other month. You can check online to see when the next upcoming meeting is, as they are free to attend. Meeting minutes are shared online so if you can’t attend, you can also read up on what has been discussed.

Which elections are we not allowed to vote in?

EU and non-EU citizens living in Germany are not allowed to vote in the following elections:

  • General election (Bundestagwahl): Every 4 years – voting for the federal parliament
  • State election (Landtagswahl): Every 4 or 5 years – voting for the state parliament

Non-EU citizens living in Germany are also not allowed to vote in the following elections:

  • Local election (Kommunalwahlen/Bezirksversammlungswahlen): Every 4-5 years – voting for regional and local subdivisions (EU citizens are also note allowed to vote for the mayor)
  • EU election (Europawahlen): Every 5 years – voting for the European parliament

 

Now that I know what elections I can vote in, how do I vote?

If you are registered in Germany and have the right to vote in Germany, you will receive your voting card (Wahlbenachrightigung) in the mail in the weeks leading up to the election.

If you have not received your voting card 3 weeks before the election date, please make sure you contact the Electoral Office (Amt für Statistik und Wahlen) to make sure that you are added to the registered list of voters.

You will need to bring this card with you to the local polling location that is designated to you (the address of the poll station is located on your poll card in large font). If you happen to lose this poll card before election day, make sure you bring all valid forms of identification with you when you go an vote.

On election day, September 13, 2020, you are invited between the hours of 8:00 AM and 6:00 PM to vote at your local voting center (address as marked on your polling card).

Don’t forget to bring your polling card and a form of identification (passport and/or German ID card).

If you would like to vote per post, you can fill out a request to do some on the back of your polling card or by scanning the barcode provided on the backside. In order to make this request,  you will need to include:

  • Your first and last name
  • Street and house number
  • Postal code of primary residence in Düsseldorf
  • Date of birth

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