The last election in Hamburg took place in May on the same day as the European elections. I was not allowed to vote. It was the first time I was kept from voting and it felt rather funny. The reason was simple: I had not been registered in Hamburg for three months which is the amount of time you have to live in a place in order to be eligible to vote. Now the next election is coming up and it is a bigger one: Bürgerschaftwahl. Germany is a federal republic with 16 federal states and 16 federal parliaments. There are three mini-states: Berlin, Hamburg and Bremen who each have their own parliament, the Bürgerschaft. So when we vote the Mayor of Hamburg, we essentially appoint the Prime Minister of the Federal State.
This time, I am allowed to vote. I am starting to think that maybe the three-month-barrier is to make sure you have had time to settle in well enough to start caring about the place. Even though it took more like 10 months for me, most people might start bothering about bikes lanes, the school system and where tax money goes to after three months. They might attach to the city and care about whether or not a new landmark is built and where the new trains should go.
By now, I cared enough to do research on the topics that are important for Hamburg. Because obviously there are different issues in this city-state than in other parts of Germany. You can be easily fooled by the best slogans on the posters and the coolest photos on the street, so I read through the candidates’ statements. I studied the election programs, I took the political quizzes. Then I cast my vote, by mail, and even though I still do feel there is lots to learn about Hamburg politics, I care enough about this city to follow the election with interest.