A GERMAN UNIVERSITY student raised her eyebrows when I asked her if there was any vote-buying or election fraud in the country's election |during our visit to a polling station in Kreuzberg, Berlin, on Sunday.
She seemed not to understand what I was talking about. When I asked her again if there is any attempt from candidates to offer money to voters in return of giving them their vote. She then said loudly, “that’s undemocratic. No, we don’t have that kind of problem.”
I then asked a member of the electoral staff, who was a volunteer helping out at the station, if there are any complaints from candidates and ask for a voting recount.
His answered “no”. He said the counting process is very transparent. They open the ballot boxes and count them in public. Apart of that, there will be many observers from political parties to monitor the counting.
“The result then will be passed on from the polling station to the local election authorities,” he said.
Judging from what I observed at the polling station the German election process seems to be very well organised.
Like many countries, they use schools as polling stations, but one cannot imagine the likely chaos at a polling station especially if there are 2,500 eligible voters. But here in Germany, it is different.
The atmosphere at the polling station was calm and no sign of any confusion. Voters showed their ID cards or documents received by mail proving that they are eligible voter before entering the ballot booth.
However, one noticeable thing was that most of the voters were seniors. Only a few of younger people were seen. Although 2,500 people were eligible to vote at this particular station but 1,000 of them voted earlier by post, according to another staff member.
Seventy two per cent turned out to vote, which is higher than in the 2009 election when turnout was 70.8 per cent, a record low in post-war Germany. This could be interpreted that people were keen to express their political views.
“One factor for the high turnout could be the moves to motivate people to cast their votes. Besides going directly to vote at a polling station on election day German voters are allowed to vote by post or vote at home without having to give any reason,” Professor Ulrike Rockmann, deputy election supervisor for Berlin, said.
If voters want to vote in advance or disabled voter they can order necessary documents via Internet and send the ballot papers back by post or to a district administration office, she said. But the ballot should be sent back to the administration office before the election day.
There were 27.7 per cent in Berlin who cast their vote by post in the last election (2009), according to Rockmann.
One interesting aspect of the ballot, which contains two checks, one for a constituency candidate and one for a party, was on the top right, it states sex (gender) and group of age of each voter so they can know their social demographics and easily keep them for statistical purposes.
Moreover, there is assistance ballot papers with holes pierced in them with the Braille alphabet. The ballot paper will help disabled people to vote without needing any assistance. They just have to put the real ballot under the assistance one and put X on their choices.
But Germany has no plan to bring back “digital voting” because some security concerns and a chance of manipulating the vote, the staff member said.
Germany in the past used voting machines, as is done in the United States and Brazil. But in 2009, the country’s highest court banned computers from the voting process on the grounds that the process had to be public. Instead, Rockmann said that as here are a lot of people who are getting older ,it could be better to set up polling stations nearer home sol older people can go to vote there more easily.