Bundestag election 2021 -“Postal voting has begun – this is how it works”

Bundestag election: apply for a postal vote - this is how it works.  Voting by post: Because of the corona pandemic, even more people could vote by postal vote this year.  (Source: dpa / Hauke-Christian Dittrich)

Voting by post: Because of the corona pandemic, even more people could vote by postal vote this year. (Source: Hauke-Christian Dittrich / dpa)

Germany will elect a new Bundestag on September 26th. Voting by post can already be made now. How to get the documents and what to watch out for. 

OVERVIEW
  • Who can vote by postal vote?
  • How do you get the documents?
  • What do you have to consider when filling out?
  • Can you be sure that the voice will also arrive?
  • How many people actually vote by postal vote?
  • Will it take longer to count the votes?
  • Can you vote twice?

In the 2017 federal election, the proportion of postal voters was just under 29 percent. Because of the corona pandemic, even more people could vote by post this time.

By August 15, that is, by Sunday, the lists had to be drawn up who was entitled to vote. So it could – theoretically – start this Monday with the mailing of the postal voting documents. In practice it works like this:

Who can vote by postal vote?

Basically all eligible voters, “without any particular reason,” explains the Federal Returning Officer. In 2013, the Federal Constitutional Court confirmed this general approval of postal voting as constitutional: The authorization of postal voting serves the goal of achieving the widest possible voter turnout and thus taking into account the principle of the generality of the election.

How do you get the documents?

In no case, by applying to the Federal Returning Officer – it is highlighted in color on his website. You can get the documents from the local authority of your main residence. A form for applying for the voting slip, which is required, is enclosed with the voting notification. This should reach the electorate by the beginning of September.

However, you don’t have to wait for it. Rather, the Federal Returning Officer advises to apply for a ballot “as early as possible”. In principle, the deadline for this is Friday (6 p.m.) before the election date.

What do you have to consider when filling out?

Ballot paper, ballot paper, ballot envelope in blue, ballot envelope in red plus information sheet – all of this goes down well with you. The information sheet explains how postal voting works. Here’s how: Tick the first and second votes personally and unobserved on the ballot. Wrinkles. Put it in the blue envelope and seal it. Date the affirmation on an oath instead of on the ballot paper and – very importantly – sign it. Put the blue envelope plus voting slip in the red envelope, seal it and throw it in the mailbox without postage. Or you can bring it to the place indicated on the envelope.

Can you be sure that the voice will also arrive?

Yes. The red color of the envelopes makes them noticeable and easy to recognize. It was agreed with Deutsche Post that even election letters that were thrown in the mailbox the day before the election would be delivered on election Sunday, according to the Federal Returning Officer. If it didn’t work in time to throw it in, you can hand in the red envelope on election day at the place indicated on this – or have it handed in.

Are more absentee ballots than ballot box votes invalid?

No. In the last general election, 0.9 percent of the first votes cast by letter were invalid – compared to 1.4 percent of those cast on election day. Of the second votes, it was only 0.5 percent (letter) compared to 1.2 (urn).

All voting letters (in the red envelope) are collected until election day and only opened by the respective postal voting committee (consisting of five to nine people) from 3 p.m. and checked for validity – for example, whether the signature is present and the ballot envelope is undamaged. The postal vote is only valid if the voter signs the ballot paper. 

How many people actually vote by postal vote?

Since 1957, the proportion of postal voters has increased from just under 5 to almost 29 percent in the last federal election. This time it could be more because of the corona pandemic.

Will it take longer to count the votes?

While there will likely be more postal voters than ever before, the counting of votes will not take longer than usual. The postal votes are counted together with those from the polling stations anyway. All ballot papers must be received by 6 p.m. Only then will the counting take place.

Since ballot papers that are received too late by post will no longer be taken into account, it is advisable to send the voting documents a few days before the election day.

Can you vote twice?

A double vote by postal vote and ballot box is not possible. Anyone who applies for a postal vote in advance will be blocked from voting in the polling station in the electoral register.

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