Walk and then stand in line at the polling station wearing an annoying mask? The n you’d better tick the box at home and sleep in on election day. Voting by letter is particularly attractive in times of the corona pandemic.
The US has shown the way: More people than ever have voted by postal vote – and at the same time increased the turnout. In times of epidemic postal voting is safer, more convenient – and very trendy. Although not entirely undisputed: Experts expect a postal vote share of more than 50 percent for the Bundestag election.
The faction of the Greens in the state parliament of Baden-Wuerttemberg shows it. A new state parliament will be elected on March 14th, just like in Rhineland-Palatinate.
The first two of a total of six state elections in 2021 and the federal election in September.
The Greens are leading the government in Baden-Württemberg – and launching a new campaign: “Choose wherever you want.”
The other parties – with the exception of the right-wing populist AfD – are promoting the advantages of postal voting in both federal states.
In addition to the “classic” personal voting at the polling station on election day, postal voting is the second permissible way in Germany to cast one’s vote. Postal voting has been possible since 1957 – in order to ensure the “general public of choice”, as stated in the electoral law principles: old, disabled and sick people should also be able to vote without problems. Until 2008 postal voters had to explain why they decided to vote by letter. That is no longer necessary today.
Half of the votes are expected as a letter
If you want to vote by letter, you have to actively apply for the postal voting documents, then fill them in or return them in person.
The ballot papers issued are registered; this prevents a voter from participating in both the postal vote and the ballot box. Unlike in some states in the USA, the date of the postmark does not count.
The documents must be available on election day, otherwise they will not be counted.
Postal voting is becoming increasingly popular. In the last federal election in 2017, over a quarter of voters made their cross at home.
Postal voting is used intensively, especially in the big cities. And in the western federal states it is much more common than in the eastern states.
In the upcoming state elections in Baden-Württemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate, experts expect a postal voter share of well over 60 percent. For the federal election in September it could be over 50 percent. But of course that depends on the further development of the corona pandemic.
Postal voting was a particularly controversial issue in the US election last November. Also because the corona pandemic was raging in the United States, a record number of over 100 million eligible voters took part in the so-called “early voting”: voting in person or by post before the actual election date. That was almost two thirds of all voters. In turn, a disproportionately large number of them voted for the Democratic Party candidate, Joe Biden.
The turnout reached a record high due to the large number of postal voters – to the detriment of the incumbent at the time. Because the political preference of postal voters was known, Donald Trump railed against “early voting” long before the election date.
Ex-US President Trump: “Postal ballot, biggest fraud in history”
The postal vote was “the greatest fraud in history,” complained Trump. Election papers would be sent to “Dead and Dogs”, he claimed. In fact, there were some difficulties with the mail delivery of documents. But the integrity of the choice was never compromised. Accordingly, Trump’s objections to the postal voting results and the election result were thrown out by the courts and his opponent Joe Biden was chosen as the election winner.
The AfD suspects election fraud
In Germany, the right-wing populist AfD is blowing the same horn as Donald Trump.
The established parties were planning a large-scale election conspiracy, should the federal election in September possibly be carried out as a pure postal vote, the AfD is raising the mood.
The party’s deputy spokesman, Stephan Brandner, describes the postal vote in a press release as “undemocratic and unconstitutional”. “Postal votes allow a high degree of manipulation,” claims Brandner. On Facebook, the AfD points out alleged “election irregularities”.
Political scientist Klaus Stüwe from the Catholic University of Eichstätt-Ingolstadt considers the AfD claims to be “a distorted picture of reality”. He told DW on the phone: “
The re is a suspicion that there are tactical motives behind this allegation. Because in the AfD, the percentage of postal votes in the past has actually been considerably smaller than the percentage of votes obtained at the ballot box.”
Political scientist Klaus Stüwe: “Election fraud is a criminal offense”
The researcher considers postal voting in Germany to be fairly safe. Nevertheless: Nobody can know whether the voter at home really filled out the ballot paper without any influence, secretly and independently. Overall, according to Stüwe, “the postal voting process is very well regulated with us and has worked well in practice over decades. All postal voting documents are meticulously and impartially checked by the electoral boards, so that postal votes are not in principle more uncertain than the votes that are traditionally used in the Polling station to be submitted. ”
The re is hardly any evidence of manipulation attempts in the past. “Voting fraud is a criminal offense,” added Stüwe.
Who votes by letter and which parties benefit?
In a study, researchers at the Berlin Social Science Center (WZB) looked more closely at postal voters.
To do this, they specifically scrutinized the 2017 federal election. In their study, Aiko Wagner and his colleague Josephine Lichteblau come to the conclusion that “it is precisely the socio-economically better off, formally more highly educated and people with a stronger political interest who make use of the postal voting option.” With a plus of 5%, the Union parties in particular benefited from the postal vote.
The FDP and the Greens also received more votes from postal voters than from ballot box voters.
The proportions of the SPD and Die Linke remained roughly the same.
The AfD, on the other hand, did significantly worse with the postal voters with a minus of 5% than at the ballot box.
The Union in particular benefits from postal voters – in contrast to the AfD
The US has shown it: An election where many people can fill out their ballot papers at home will generate more voter turnout. Good for democracy.
The researchers from the Berlin Science Center would have no concerns if the next federal election should take place purely by postal vote due to corona. This does not result in a “distortion of the election results”.
Klaus Stüwe sees it a little differently. He draws attention to the fact that, under constitutional law, the election in Germany is actually intended more as a ballot box – that is, voting in person. He therefore sees the increasing trend towards postal voting as “ambiguous”.
The right to vote is a valuable asset: “Does that still become clear when you fill out your voting slip on the dining table, so to speak?”