Too young to vote?
In Germany, a number of different projects enable young people to cast their vote in parallel with the Bundestag election, which makes it possible for them to register their opinion, but their vote has no impact on the election outcome. This is why many people demand a lowering of the voting age, so that you will be able to vote in the actual Bundestag elections before you reach the age of 18. We have researched the current state of affairs and learnt how those in favour are attempting to push this change through.
All German nationals aged 18 and over on voting day are entitled to vote in Bundestag elections - regardless of gender, income, religion, occupation or political persuasion.
Since the mid-1990s, there have been increasing calls for lowering the voting age to 16. In part, this is to counteract a decrease in voter participation and the "political apathy" of young people. In 1996, young people aged 16 and over were allowed to vote in local elections in Lower Saxony for the first time.
As well as Lower Saxony, the following federal states currently have active electoral rights in local elections from age 16: Baden-Württemberg, Brandenburg, Bremen, Hamburg (district assembly), Mecklenburg-West Pomerania, North Rhine-Westphalia, Saxony-Anhalt und Schleswig-Holstein. In Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein, those aged 16 and over are able to vote in regional elections, too.
Initiatives for lowering the voting age
A new campaign called ICH WILL WÄHLEN (I WANT TO VOTE) was initiated in March 2002 and started with a petition (an appeal to the Bundestag) of under-18-year-olds demanding to be able to participate in elections and ballots. Many organizations and party youth associations, for example the Grüne Jugend (the Green Party's "Green Youth"), are in support of this campaign. Other campaign initiatives, such as Nicht-Wahlberechtigungskarten ("not-able-to-vote cards"), emails to political parties, posters or stickers to be placed across election posters, are designed to raise public awareness and lead to the lowering of the voting age. If you would like to sign the petition or if you have ideas for new initiatives, go to www.ich-will-waehlen.de
ICH WILL WÄHLEN was initiated in 2002 by KRÄTZÄ. K.R.Ä.T.Z.Ä, a Berlin-based organization for children's rights, has campaigned for the right to vote without age limits since 1992. K.R.Ä.T.Z.Ä. argues that the right of political co-determination is a democratic human right that no one living in a democracy should be excluded from - not even because of his or her age.
nextvote is campaigning to lower the voting age to 14 years.
politikorange was set up in March 2002 as a project of Netzwerk Demokratieoffensive and regards itself as an initiative of various autonomous projects and organizations by and for young people. Represented are: BundesschülerInnenvertretung (BSV - "Federal Students' Lobby"), Bundesverband Jugendpresse (BJP - "Federal Youth Press Organization"), Deutsche Jugendpresse (DJP - "German Youth Media"), Häfft, Servicestelle Jugendbeteiligung ("Information Point Youth Participation") and the ICH WILL WÄHLEN campaign.
Mach's ab 16 in Brandenburg! is a project of Landesjugendring Brandenburg e.V. and aims to provide a platform for discussing lowering the voting age to 16 in Brandenburg. The website offers information on all aspects of the right to vote.