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European elections: Why not voting can also harm you

European elections: Why not voting can also harm you

The European elections are just around the corner. Many people are unlikely to be interested in this. Some people are even avoiding going to the polling station. But the influence on the election result is greater than non-voters might think.

Have you already decided who you want to vote for on Sunday? Or do you not want to vote at all? Of course, the decision is yours. But even if you don’t vote, this decision will have more influence on the final result of the European elections than you might think. Because non-voters are a large group. And their missing ballots in the ballot box can ultimately strengthen extreme parties – and weaken democracy.

In fact, the number of non-voters in the European elections is high: In 2019, around 50 percent of EU citizens did not vote. In the 2014 European elections, only around 42 percent voted.

But who are these non-voters? According to the (FES), they regularly form the largest group in elections. The social situation of those eligible to vote influences the voting decision. The poorer a district or constituency, the lower the turnout, according to the FES.

Those who do not vote help the major parties

“In many cases, the decision not to vote is based on a feeling of powerlessness and distance from those who make political decisions,” the FES continues. However, if people believe that their vote cannot have a significant influence on political decisions, this is, in addition to the decision not to vote, a motivation for many to vote for parties on the fringes of the political spectrum. This is also reflected in the election results: Alongside the SPD, the Left Party and the AfD perform best where voter turnout is low.

This is a problem for democracy itself. It needs a minimum level of citizen participation to function. Otherwise it will run into problems of legitimacy, the s website says. And the vote that is not cast still has a great influence – so parties that non-voters may not want to see in power can benefit. “The level of voter turnout has an impact on the election result: non-voters ultimately always support the election winner, whether they want to or not,” is the explanation.

But how? In mathematical terms, all parties that would not normally have been voted for benefit from the non-voting, in proportion to their share of the vote, experts explain.the site and have an example: “If, for example, an SPD voter does not vote once, then the CDU will benefit the most, and vice versa.” But the party that is most damaged is the one that you would have voted for if you had voted. So if a voter who normally votes for the SPD does not vote, then logically that damages the SPD.

An example calculation: If 100 people vote and 20 of them vote for Party A, then Party A gets 20 percent. But if only 80 of the 100 people vote, but all 20 still vote for Party A, then the party gets a full 25 percent of the votes.

Non-voters also influence results of extreme parties

If citizens stay away from the ballot box, small and extreme parties benefit.These receive an “additional effect” from non-voters, according to the website wahlrecht.de. Abstentions or invalid votes lower the five percent hurdle somewhat, making it easier to overcome. An effect that is, however, comparatively small.

Let’s use our example from above again. If only four out of 100 people vote for Party B, it will be below the percentage threshold and will not get into Parliament. If 80 people were to vote again, but four still voted for Party B, it would get five percent – and would get into Parliament. But there is no percentage threshold in the current European elections. So theoretically it would make no difference.

The political association nevertheless sees non-voting as a major danger because it favors right-wing extremist parties. They are very good at mobilizing voters. The more votes such parties receive and the lower the voter turnout, the higher the percentage they will receive in the end – and thus the more seats. They also argue that non-voters facilitate the political influence of extremist movements. A high voter turnout could prevent a “rude awakening.”

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European elections 2024: Is invalid voting better?

Not voting also has an impact on your own situation. Voter turnout does not reflect the population in a representative manner if socially disadvantaged people do not vote, but wealthier people do. The lower the voter turnout, the less likely poor and less educated people and people with a migrant background are to vote. They are then underrepresented in comparison to their share of the population. This is also reflected in political practice, explained political scientist Robert Vehrkamp to the . In recent decades, housing policy has tended to be less oriented towards the interests of tenants than towards those of property owners.

Those who don’t vote still cast their vote, albeit unconsciously and unintentionally. So those who don’t vote and then complain about the election result should reconsider. Because non-voters also contribute to the election result – and thus to the politics that will determine our lives in the coming years.

If you still don’t want to vote for any party, is it better to invalidate the ballot paper?

There is no such thing as abstention in Germany. But making your vote invalid is no better than not voting at all. Only valid votes are counted. Only these are used to calculate the percentages of the parties. Voting invalidly increases voter turnout, because invalid votes are shown separately in the election statistics. But since they are not taken into account in the allocation of seats, they also contribute to the fact that the parties need fewer absolute votes to achieve higher percentages.

If you change your mind: You should already have received your voting documents. This is still possible: You can apply for a ballot paper no later than 6 p.m. on the Friday before election day. In exceptional cases, the application can also be submitted on election day up until 3 p.m., for example in the case of proven sudden illness. Do you still need help deciding who to vote for? This will help you.

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Source: Stern

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