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Elections to the Bürgerschaft

Someone puts a ballot in a ballot box.
© Canva

Why vote?

All state authority is derived from the people – so says the Constitution of the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg. For that reason, citizens in Hamburg vote on the make-up of the Hamburg Parliament (Bürgerschaft). In this way they have an influence on political decisions and decide who should represent their interests and wishes.

Although there are other ways of participating and having an influence, voting in the elections is still one of the most important opportunities for participation. A Parliament only really has legitimacy if it is elected by as high a proportion as possible of those eligible to vote.

How are elections held?

As of 2015, the elections to the Hamburg Parliament take place every five years.

The elections are universal, direct, free, equal and secret.

Universal:

All citizens have the right to vote. No one may be excluded for political, economic or social reasons or because of his or her sex, race, language, religion, education, profession or income. All Germans who are 16 years old or older on polling day, who have lived in Hamburg for at least three months or are usually resident there, and are not disqualified from voting are eligible to vote.

Direct:

Members of Parliament are directly elected.

Free:

The voting decisions of the electorate are protected and free from influence.

Equal:

Every person eligible to vote may cast his or her vote in the same way as everyone else. All votes have equal weight (each vote has the same value; in party list elections, each vote counts towards the result).

Secret:

Voting takes place in a polling booth which voters may only enter alone. Voters must be able to keep their voting intentions and how they actually vote to themselves.

Who can stand for election?

Parties, independent candidates and voter associations committed to the basic democratic order may stand for election. In principle, all those eligible to vote in elections to the Bürgerschaft are also eligible to be elected to it. Election nominations for constituency and Land lists should be submitted to the office of the returning officer (Landeswahlleitung). The Land electoral committee then decides on inclusion on the electoral list. All nominations must include the candidate’s name, date and place of birth, address and profession. Candidates must also give the returning officer their written consent to standing for election.

To stand for election to the Bürgerschaft, non-party voter associations and independent candidates not represented in a Land parliament or in the Bundestag need to collect a minimum number of signatures from those eligible to vote – at least 100 signatures for a constituency list and at least 1000 for a Land list. The people who sign are not bound to vote for the candidate. On polling day they can still vote for anyone they want.

You can find more information on the website of the returning officer for Hamburg.