As an intern at Democracy International I was fortunate to take part and record my experiences during the handing out of voting booklets for the trial vote of the Abstimmung21 campaign. Abstimmung21 is a joint campaign initiated by Democracy International, Mehr Demokratie, Omnibus für Direkte Demokratie and Change.org to organise the first nationwide self-organised vote in the history of Germany, parallel with the Federal Election in 2021. For the purpose of the trial vote, 108 103 voting packets were mailed to citizens upon request and handed out by volunteers in Wedel and Hamburg-Ottensen. Enthusiasm was high for this direct democratic experiment and the campaign achieved a 78% response rate on the total number of documents handed out. The voting documents contained 8 topic proposals for voters to decide on. The results of the trial vote are now in and some interesting observations can be made.
The first proposal showed 81,47% of voters to be in favour of Germany pursuing a policy of climate neutrality and comprehensive renewable energy infrastructure by 2035, along with the phasing-out of coal by 2030. Secondly, the proposal of introducing a minimum wage of €12 was met with a 84,26% “yes” vote. The proposals most strongly supported by voters was the introduction of a binding lobby register with 93,72% support. This is a strong indication that voters would like more transparency in German politics with regard to lobbying practices. Almost just as well supported, was the idea of compelling supermarkets to donate groceries instead of wasting them with a 92,23% approval rate. Organic farming also received considerable support with 92,42% of voters backing the promotion of organic farming in Europe and Germany. Furthermore, voters showed overwhelming support for a proposed fracking ban in Germany (91,52%). The penultimate proposal saw 88,54% of voters favouring the introduction of nationwide votes in Germany. Finally, the topic of universal basic income was the least well received, but was still met with a 59,82% “yes” vote.
The idea behind the trial vote was to get a better idea of the topics that people would wish to vote on in 2021 and what participation figures would look like. The campaign has now entered the 6-month phase set aside for finalising the topics. Topic proposals will be posted on a web portal for people to vote on with the top 10 topics being taken forward into the 2021 nationwide self-organised vote. The trial vote results showed that voters are eager to make their voices heard and would like to see certain topics addressed by politicians that are not on the current political agenda. During the final Abstimmung21 vote, it will become clear if such topics are also supported by the larger German population. After the results are in, the onus will be on the German government to respect the input of its citizens by addressing the issues voted on during Abstimmung21.