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Germany’s biggest post office has come under fire after saying everyone living in the country could vote, regardless of whether they were eligible
Why millions of German residents can’t vote
More than a million people in Germany cannot vote because they live abroad, according to official statistics. But authorities insisted that most of those people are in the country legally.
“All eligible residents living in Germany can use their right to vote in elections for the presidency of the Federal Republic of Germany,” said Thomas Bärfuss, a spokesman for Germany’s federal office for citizens’ rights.
Of those living abroad, a little over 900,000 are deemed to be entitled to vote, and at least another 250,000 have not been registered, Bärfuss said. Many voters do not declare themselves overseas, and the vast majority reside in eastern or southeastern regions.
Bärfuss did not know how many, if any, of the 400,000 other foreign residents who claim to be German have applied to vote. The federal office for citizens’ rights also receives requests for more information regarding people who live abroad.
About 11 million residents in Germany are eligible to vote, but authorities are in the process of more than doubling the current number to reach a total of 14 million.
Only 18,000 registered from abroad in federal elections held in September 2016, and Bärfuss said that the number was likely to be lower for this year’s race. The actual number of people voting could be higher because some locations would not be open if there were not enough voters registered.
The Bundesrat, Germany’s upper house of parliament, decided in 2015 to expand voting rights to all Germans living abroad.
The Bundestag should be in session next month for a period of three weeks, and Bärfuss said it could reach a decision about extending the voting period to five weeks by June. “At the end of this process, the Bundestag will have enough time,” he said.