Every now and then, there are posters hanged on lamp posts or in the U-Bahn. I’m sure you have noticed them.
This is generally the sign that elections are soon held. This time, it is local elections in Berlin; representatives of each Bezirk in the city (BVV – Bezirksverordnetenversammlung) are renewed every 5 years. That’s 55 representatives per Bezirk who take decisions on local matters and allocate budget as well. As a foreigner who has been living here for a while, there is a good chance that you are interested in how politics are run in your Bezirk. Those are elections are a chance to impact those policies.
So let me tell you 5 reasons why you probably won’t take part to those upcoming elections in Berlin.
You probably can’t take part to elections in Berlin
Yes that’s right: you are a foreigner after all. You came to live here, you registered and are paying your taxes, but it surely doesn’t mean your voice should count in those elections. You surely don’t feel as legitimate as your neighbor who was born here, right?
Actually, if you are an EU-Citizen, good old E.U decided something else back in 1992: you have equal rights to take part to local elections, provided you have been registered for more than 3 months and are over 16 years old.
You don’t know what to vote
Ok, so as it turns out, you can indeed vote. But i bet you are thinking now
“I’m aware of it now, but i haven’t been following local politics, i don’t know any parties and their agendas! How can i get up to date on those things?”
It would take too long and too much effort to come to a qualified and informed decision, so why bother? Fortunately for you, in this digital-age, there are ways for you to take a few shortcuts and make up for the lost time. One of those resources would be the excellent Bezirk-O-Mat by the Tagesspeigel which allows you to pick your Bezirk and quickly answer some questions to see what is at stakes in your neighborhood and what answers each party brings to the table. That’s a good way to get started.
Your opinion doesn’t make a difference
And why should it anyway? Democracy is a farce and doesn’t bring real change to the table. Adding your vote to the Berlin elections won’t make a difference on the long-run. Or will it?
That statement really doesn’t hold for local elections because it often adresses “hard” issues you can see everyday in your streets. The BVV does decide whether or not that KiTa will be able to keep your child next year or if Spätis will be open on Sundays or not. The BVV also decide to put money on building a safer Radweg on the way to your workplace or invest in rent-protection programs so rent prices stay affordable.
It’s not about macro-economic issues, it’s about your everyday life.
You haven’t registered to vote in time
The age-old problem of registering. Well, guess what? It has been taken care of for you. Every eligible voter receives their “Wahlbenachrichtigung” latest 3 weeks before the vote starts. It’s piece of paper that notifies you when and where you can go vote on. It will probably be a local school or other public building. If you haven’t received this paper, you can go to your local Bürgeramt to let them know.
You aren’t even in Berlin during the elections
If you aren’t able to attend that day, it is possible to cast your vote by post. You can simply ask to receive your ballot paper by post before sending it back. It’s all very confidential and completely free of charge. You can put someone else in charge and vote “by proxy”. This means you designate someone your trust to vote in your behalf.
So really, really, on the 18th September, there are truly no reasons why you should take part to your locations elections in Berlin*
This post has been inspired by the excellent work done by the Minor project on their dedicated website voteberlin.eu. Check it out. A portal made by the city has been built to talk about it too there.
I hope every reader has understood the sarcastic tone of this article by now. If not, let me be perfectly clear because this is the internets: i want you to go vote and take part to the local elections in Berlin. This blog is called “settle in berlin” after all. It’s a really important step to keeping your area the way you want it. It’s especially important in this climate where foreigners are sometimes accused by a few not to care about the well being of the city. Let’s show how much we do in those elections.