Thursday, February 14, 2013

Elections in Germany

An American tends to find voting and elections in Germany....a bit different in nature.

First, elections all occur on Sundays.  It's been this way for an eternity, and I doubt if you could ever convince anyone in Germany to do otherwise.  I'd personally comment that it makes sense in that ninety-five percent of the nation is off that day, and can't blame work as a reason not to vote.

Second, cites....towns....and villages tend to always have the vote in the same locations.  If you live in a town of three thousand, it's likely one polling station, and it's been there for two decades.  No one can ever claim that they don't know where the polling station is located.

Third, yeah, there's that pesky national ID card.  You have to have it, period.....if you intend to walk outside your house or travel around.  If the cops stop you....you need to have it.  So when you go to vote....they tend to verify you, and there's only this one-time vote.  No chances of multiple votes....like you'd see in the US.

Fourth, there's not sixty odd things that you tend to vote on.  If this is a local election, then you vote for the mayor and for the city council....that's it.  State election?  You vote for the party, and they pick their own players.  Rarely do you vote on referendums.  Now, that said....if you live in a major city and they have this five-star thing coming up....they tend to want the public to say they approve.  Hamburg is an example of this....where at the end of 2013, they will vote on the idea of the city buying the electrical network from a private company.

Fifth, foreigners get a say in the national election.  Yes, I was one of those folks, with a resident visa, and got a note about six months after I registered for the visa that elections were coming up and I could come down and vote for the guy in the Bundestag who represents foreigners.  There's not many countries where a foreigner, on a work visa.....gets to vote.  Course, I am paying the taxes, so you'd expect something.

Sixth....states can make up their own general rules for city and state elections.  Normally, it's not a big deal.  Up in Hamburg for the fall 2013 election.....they are approving the rules that allow teenagers down to the age of sixteen to vote.  The logic?  You don't want to get too deeply into this....but the SPD folks are hoping that they and the Greens can reap a fair number of youth votes.  They kinda figured out that kids tend to vote liberal.....before they get older, wiser, and more taxed, and then realize that the FDP or the CDU might be a better choice.

An American would shake his head at sixteen year old kids voting.  It'd be a hard sell to convince most adults to accept something like this.  And the other side of this is that they just might decide to vote on some pretty radical things with votes cast for movie actors or late-night talk-show folks.

Finally, there's this interesting moment around 8PM on election night when the votes roll in and a state can declare a winner or complete lead by 9PM.  Rarely (it does happen), does it take three or four hours to figure out the actual winner of an election.  The news guys will waste an hour getting you excited, then flip into the second hour just talking to the winner and loser, and by 10PM.....you can nod off to sleep....feeling good or bad about the outcome.

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