I.In eleven of the 16 federal states, young people under the age of 18 are allowed to vote at the municipal level, but not in Hesse. Only adults are allowed to put their crosses on the municipal ballot. According to the assessment of the “Mehr Demokratie” (More Democracy) association, the “Youth Votes” initiative and several constitutional lawyers, this is unconstitutional. In four federal states minors are allowed to vote in state elections, including in Brandenburg and Hamburg.
Neither the Basic Law nor the Hessian municipal code or the district code stipulated a minimum age of 18 years in local elections, argued lawyers and democracy activists at a press conference on Thursday. “Hesse is lagging behind,” said Ralf-Uwe Beck, Thuringian spokesman for the federal board of “More Democracy”. There is no evidence whatsoever that young people aged 16 or 17 are still too politically immature to be able to vote. “Young people shouldn’t put up with that anymore,” said Beck.
The topic comes up again and again in the context of elections. The reason this time are the lawsuits of two young Hessian democracy activists before the administrative courts of Kassel and Giessen, which are due to be filed in the next week. In the lawsuits, the young men are calling for the local elections in Kassel and the mayoral election in Marburg to be repeated. In Marburg there was a tremendous match between the SPD incumbent and the challenger of the Greens. The elections on March 14th were “unconstitutional”, said Hermann Heussner, constitutional lawyer at the Osnabrück University of Applied Sciences, who represents the two plaintiffs legally. If this is determined by a court, it is hoped that the Hessian state parliament would be given the task of lowering the voting age.
“It is incredibly frustrating when someone denies competence,” said 17-year-old Marburg student Tom Kewald. He is involved there with the Young Liberals, the youth organization of the FDP, which he was not yet allowed to vote in the local elections on March 14th. He drew attention to the fact that in the long term, young people would be hardest hit by political decisions, such as global climate change. He also criticized the fact that, as Hesse, he was excluded from the local elections, while a student in North Rhine-Westphalia was allowed to participate. That is a “scandalous situation”.
His peer Jonathan Faust from Kassel is involved in the local group of “Fridays for Future”. He referred to many friends and acquaintances his age who were politically active. When voting, however, as a young person “the necessary trust is not shown”. On the one hand, a young person in school and society is “taught how important young people are”, and on the other hand, ultimately, they are not allowed to participate. “And then one is still amazed that the turnout is so low.” In the Hessian local elections on March 14th, it was around half of those eligible to vote.