It all started about 7 weeks ago when a normal looking enough letter arrived at my door reminding me of the EU elections in May and describing the inconvenient process of getting registered. I did vote at the last European Union election in 2009 in the UK and somehow I remember it to have been really straightforward. Anyway, I did write the date down but was a little skeptical about actually doing the paperwork to get registered as it involves standing 40 minutes (on a good day) in line at the city council office that closes at noon anyway. Who has got time for that?!
Fast forward 2 weeks to me waiting in line at the city council office to get a student discount card. Yes, I am ashamed to admit that I will make time for that! Before leaving I did ask the nice man for the form which was simple enough other than asking me the last address at which I was registered at for elections. Oh dear, would not even know which country that would have been in since I always legally register everywhere but mostly forget to tell them that I am off to the next destination.
In the next few weeks the city sent me an additional two letters concerning the EU elections. I read up on all the parties and was ready to cast my one vote. UNTIL I got a stack of papers informing me that as a non German, EU citizen I am still eligible to vote at the local elections (Gemeinderats-und Kreistagswahlen) but not at the Regional elections. Oh OK…umm…I don’t know a damn thing about local politics but it is my civic duty to make an informed decision! I opened the envelope full of voting slips and sat there for ages looking for the instructions.
Turns out: the Kreistagswahl voting slips are green and you have 15 votes to give to the candidates, you can give either 1,2 or 3 votes to the same candidate but the overall number cannot be more than 15 but it can be less than that. The Gemeinderatswahl slips are red and you have to cast 40 votes!! The slips had the names, addresses and occupations of the candidates. It was also suggested to fill them out ahead of time and bring them on election day. Yeah no shit, that would take hours.
Election day. I have prepared all the forms, got my passport ready, only thing is…where is the polling station? I must have misplaced one of the letters cause I cannot for the life of me find the address…anywhere! I do the stupidest thing I have done in a while, I leave my flat and just wander around the nearby streets and I’ll be damned, I see a lady with the same colorful voting slips in her hand. I literally follow her into an old peoples home which luckily, doubles as a polling station.
From then on things are pretty simple, I hand this guy all my documents and he gives me two envelopes and an intensely long piece of paper and tells me to stand behind the partition. (PS: Picture has nothing to do with elections, instead it is from Beyonce’s Partition music video. Can’t expect to hold peoples attention on politics without the occasional cat or butt picture.)
The envelopes were way too small for all the voting slips and made from such thin paper that I was petrified about ripping them. Was I the only one who voted for candidates from multiple parties? Cause if you only vote for one party you can just stuff that one slip into those miniature envelopes. I will remember that for next time. I handed the things back to a German teenager who was manning the station, he asked me where my Regional elections envelope was, I answered: “Don’t have one, I’m not German.” He replied with an ohhh-sound and thanked me. I left.
Again, this has got little to do with the elections but this pretty cat with creepily light blue eyes followed me from the polling station to my doorstep. I am inclined to think it might be a robot cat spying on immigrant voters.
In conclusion, I voted and it didn’t kill me! In fact, Germans might have not invented democracy but they have made voting into an art form (though maybe a nightmare for anyone not keen on wasting paper).