Wahlberliner, it’s time to wahl!

If you’ve been holding off registering your address at the Bürgeramtafter hearing about the difficulty of securing an appointment or long waiting times, this week is an excellent time to get the job done.

On September 18, Berliners will head to the polling booths to vote in the local elections, but you have to have registered at least three months in advance in order to be eligible for voting – making the cutoff date this Saturday, June 18.

The good news is that citizens of any EU country are eligible to vote in one of the two elections taking place that day, not only those with a German passport.

There will be two elections held on September 18: the election for the people’s representatives to the Berlin state parliament (Abgeordneten-Haus), and the Bezirks-Verordneten-Versammlung (BVV) – a party vote which determines a party’s seats in your Bezirk, or district. Non-German, EU citizens are eligible to vote in the BVV election.

Why does this election matter?

It would be easy to think of Berlin as leaning left, but that idea has been contested in the run up to this year’s local elections.

The right-wing anti-immigrant party Alternative for Germany (AfD) was polling as high as 15% in Berlin in May, an incredible feat for a party that did not exist four years ago and rejects so many of the liberal ideas Berliner voters have supported in the past.

The AfD launched as a Eurosceptic party in 2013, but has since adopted an anti-immigration stance. Its rejection of Germany’s currently ‘welcoming’ refugee policy is what has galvanized its support so far.

But the AfD has taken its anti-immigration stance to the extreme in its policies, campaigning with the slogan that “Islam is not part of Germany” and adopting policies that would ban mosques, the Muslim call to prayer, full-face veils for women and female headscarves in schools.

Earlier this year the party’s co-leader Frauke Petry suggested immigrants seeking asylum in Germany should be shot when trying to cross the border.

It’s not only the wealthier parts of the Berlin where the AfD has found backing for its tough stance against current refugee policy, having drummed up considerable support in the more southern parts of Neukölln as well. It’s hard to believe we’re publishing these words and yet it’s a real possibility that the model multikulti district that has traditionally bled red (and green!) could find itself with one or more of its seats taken by AfD politicians following this year’s elections.

A Neukölln without headscarves or mosques hardly sounds like the Neukölln we know and love, does it?

If the AfD receives a mandate in Neukölln, that’s going to be bad news for döner-lovers, Aussie hipsters, Syrian newbies, and pretty much everyone else who makes up the GSBTB community.

So if you thought local elections don’t affect you as a non-German, if you can’t quite be bothered heading to the Bürgeramt to get your papers done, if you don’t know who you’d vote for so thought you’d just ignore it and go back to Berghain: let this be the end of that.

Every vote counts, so let’s get this thing done!

How can you register to vote?

If you are a German or EU citizen, you are eligible to vote in the September elections.

If you are registered with your local Bürgeramt at your current address, then you’re all signed up: you will receive your voting registration papers in the mail a few weeks before election day, with instructions on where and when to place your votes.

If you are yet to register at the Bürgeramt with your current address, you have until this Saturday, 18 June.

Here’s what you need to register:

  • – proof of your address, in the form of a Bestätigung des Wohnungsgebers (click the link to open the form) which is filled out by your landlord or main tenant if you are a subtenant
  • this form, filled out
  • – your passport or other ID

A complete list of Bürgerämter is available here: https://service.berlin.de/standorte/buergeraemter/ – you need one that says it does “An-, Ab- und Ummeldung”.

Some Bürgerämter allow you to register at the offices outside of their district – click on one of the listed Bürgerämter to see its rules and what you need to do to get an appointment there.

Our tips for a pain-free registation experience:

  • – Consider choosing a Bürgerämt further outside the central city – the queues tend to be shorter outside the Ring
  • – Many Bürgerämter have Infodesks where you can simply drop off your documents without having to wait around for an appointment. As long as you have your papers ready, and show up in person with your photo ID, you should be able to drop your registration papers at the Infodesk. Note that this is considered an “emergency” option: but getting registered in time to be eligible to vote is a legitimate reason, so feel free to tell them why it’s an emergency (the rise of the AfD is a bit of an emergency too, right? 😉 )
  • – Queue up early in the morning – about half-an-hour to an hour before the office opens should be enough – or choose a less busy time of day, perhaps when more people will be at work
  • – Take something to read, or a buddy, to help pass the time
  • – Please don’t buy or sell appointments: this only makes it harder for everyone else to access this basic service