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News

Right to vote in the 2021 elections for expatriate Germans and Czechs

1.06.2021
Company: bnt attorneys-at-law s.r.o.

Citizens of Germany and of the Czech Republic who do not reside in their respective countries of birth may still cast their vote at the Bundestag election on 26 September 2021 or the elections to the House of Deputies of Czech Parliament on 5/6 October 2021.

Citizens of Germany and of the Czech Republic who do not reside in their respective countries of birth may still cast their vote at the Bundestag election on 26 September 2021 or the elections to the House of Deputies of Czech Parliament on 5/6 October 2021. Expatriate Czechs face no restrictions to their franchise whatsoever; expatriate Germans may be restricted in their vote after having lived abroad for 25 years or more. Such restrictions have been ruled to be admissible even by the European Court of Human Rights (judgment of 7 May 2013, Shindler v. THE UNITED KINGDOM, AZ 19840/09). But such restrictions for expatriate Brits – which apply after 15 years of living abroad – shall soon be lifted, in a late vindication of the almost-centenarian Harry Shindler, a British citizen who has lived in Italy for almost 40 years and who had brought his unsuccessful lawsuit in the matter of his right to vote to the court in Strasbourg.

Expatriate Germans and Czechs who wish to exercise their right to vote must observe certain specific rules, and in particular must keep track of exclusionary time periods.

Bundestag elections in Germany on 26 September 2021

Most of the up to four million expatriate Germans – the exact figure is unknown – are entitled to vote. Four years ago, only about 115000 of them, i.e., approx. 3%, did make use of their franchise. Expatriate Germans who never lived in the country do not get to vote, and neither do those who lived fewer than three months in Germany (after they turned 14) over the course of the past 25 years, unless they can demonstrate that they “have for other reasons attained personal and immediate familiarity with the political situation in the Federal Republic in Germany, and are affected by them” (Sec. 12 (2) of the Federal Elections Act), and do so in writing toward the electoral office at their last place of residence.

This means that a number of Germans who have lived abroad for more than 25 years will again forfeit their right to vote also in the upcoming Bundestag elections, and in this sense nothing has changed since 2013 – see our article on the most recent Bundestag elections in September 2017.

All expatriate Germans who wish to vote need to reapply in writing for being entered into the electoral register no later than 21 days before the elections, i.e., no later than by 5 September 2021. Having been entered in the register already for the 2017 elections is not enough! The application must be filed at the place of the person’s most recent residence in Germany, using a form which can be downloaded from the website of the Federal Election Commissioner (at Deutsche im Ausland - Der Bundeswahlleiter), to be filled in and signed and sent to the electoral office of the last place of residence – as a physical original (i.e., a scan copy or e-mail will not suffice). This particular electoral office will then send the voting documents to the voter. The vote is being cast as a correspondence vote (as opposed to appearing at the embassy) – and the expatriate German will cast their vote in “their” electoral district, as expatriate Germans do not have a special constituency of their own.

Elections to the House of Deputies of Czech Parliament on 5/6 October 2021

Czech citizens who live permanently abroad – their number is unknown but will likely range in the hundreds of thousands – may also participate in parliamentary elections, without restrictions (Sec. 1 (7) of the Czech Electoral Act). To do this, they have two options:

Either, expatriate Czechs have themselves entered in the electoral list of “their” diplomatic mission (embassy or consulate of the Czech Republic), no later than by 29 August 2021, i.e., 40 days before the elections. In this case, the voter may vote directly at the embassy, or apply for voter registration ID at that embassy (which lets them vote also at other diplomatic missions or in fact at a polling place in the Czech Republic). In either case, such Czech voters will be struck off the electoral register in the Czech Republic where they may have entertained a permanent place of residence – and another application will become necessary if they want to again be entered in that register. Those expat Czechs who vote 2021 will vote for the candidates put up for the Region of Ústí – picked by drawing lots as the electoral district in which expatriate Czechs will cast their votes this time. In this sense, there exists no electoral district for expatriate Czechs of the kind which other EU countries recognize (such as Italy).

Or, and this is the second option, the voter applies for voter registration ID (voličský průkaz) at a Czech diplomatic mission or at their permanent place of residence. This ID enables voters to cast their vote at any Czech diplomatic mission or at any polling station within the Czech Republic, for the candidates at their place of residence. This application must be filed by 1 October 2021 on an official form with certified signature or via databox, or by 4:00 p.m. on 6 October 2021, and then in person, with the competent authority at the place of permanent residence.

As we have seen, expatriate Germans and Czechs are not excluded from participating in their respective parliamentary elections in the fall of 2021 (with certain restrictions applying to expatriate Germans). However, both must observe statutory time periods and special procedures.

AUTHOR

Source:
On expatriate Germans: Němci v zahraničí - Spolková volební komise (Bundeswahlleiter)
Federal Elections Act (Bundeswahlgesetz)

On expatriate Czechs: Information provided by the Czech Interior Ministry 
Act No. 247/1995 Coll., on elections to the Parliament of the Czech Republic, and on amendments to certain other laws

On expatriate British citizens: Judgment of 7 May 2013, Shindler v. THE UNITED KINGDOM, at:
https://hudoc.echr.coe.int/
https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2021/may/11/britons-living-abroad-for-more-than-15-years-to-be-given-right-to-vote?CMP=fb_gu&utm_medium=Social&utm_source=Facebook&fbclid=IwAR2Juuc37L2A1aNVF-G9wZ9i_1OLNv9oHFOGjnUH70EzQtVBZIfXp3YsBs4#Echobox=1620769931

 

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