Nearly 8 million long-term residents of Germany can’t vote in the election

To the polling station! Unless you’re a foreigner…
To the polling station! Unless you’re a foreigner…
Image: AP Photo/Michael Probst
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They have to pay taxes, pensions, and mandatory health insurance, but the 7.8 million foreigners who’ve long called Germany home won’t be heading to the polling stations come Sept. 24. The German constitution only permits German citizens to vote in its federal elections. There are 61 million Germans eligible to vote, adding another 8 million would increase the electorate by 13%.

Deutsche Welle reports that, according to 2016 microcensus data, the near-8 million foreigners include people from other EU countries, people from European countries outside the bloc, like Russia, Turkey and Kosovo, and foreigners from Asia, Africa, the Americas, and Australia. The average amount of time they’ve lived in Germany is 15 years. People from EU countries do get to vote in local, municipal elections, but that’s all. 

The only way non-German residents can have a say in how their adopted country is run is by getting German citizenship. For that, they need to have lived in the country for at least eight years and take a mind-boggling citizenship exam—but in many cases they’d have to give up their original nationhood to do so.

This puts Brits who’ve lived in Germany in a sorry situation. When a British person lives outside of the UK for more than 15 years, they lose the right to vote in their home country. However, unless they can get German citizenship, they can’t vote here either.

The German government has been resisting calls to expand its voting rights for years. Organizations like Wahlrecht Für Alle (Voting Rights For All) and Greens and Left politicians have argued that people without a vote are essentially second class citizens, and it weakens a democracy.

“More than half of the EU member states have granted voting rights in local and regional elections,” Katya Andrusz from the Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) told Deutsche Welle.