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Deprivation of the right to vote

Section 13 no. 1 of the Federal Elections Act rules that a person shall be disqualified from voting, among other reasons, if he or she is not eligible to vote on account of a judicial decision.

This provision is not opposed to the general principle of equality as laid down in Article 3 of the Basic Law or to the principle that elections should be general and equal because a person may not automatically be deprived of the right to vote but only by judicial decision based on existing legal facts.

Such disqualification as a consequence of the judicial decision of a German court is possible, however, only in a few cases explicitly stated in the German Penal Code and in the Federal Constitutional Court Act for a period of two to a maximum of five years. A person is disqualified from voting if he or she has been sentenced to imprisonment of at least six months or at least one year for having committed for instance the following offences:

  • preparation of a war of aggression and high treason against the Federation
  • treason and disclosure of state secrets with intent to cause damage
  • attacks against organs and representatives of foreign states
  • disruption of election process and falsification of election documents
  • bribing delegates
  • sabotage against means of defence or intelligence activity endangering national security (provided that a sentence of imprisonment is imposed for at least one year in this case).

Subject to the specific provisions of criminal law, the deprivation of the right to vote is at the court’s duty-bound discretion in these instances and not an automatic consequence of the fact that a sentence has been imposed for these offences.

A person may be deprived of the right to vote also by the Federal Constitutional Court when he or she has forfeited basic rights.

Legal bases

Article 38 (1) of the Basic Law (GG)
Article 93 (1) no. 5 in conjunction with Article 18 of the Basic Law (GG)
Articles 13 no. 1, 36, 39 (2) of the Federal Constitutional Court Act (BVerfGG)
Section 13 no. 1 of the Federal Elections Act (BWG)
Sections 80 to 92 of the German Penal Code (StGB) in conjunction with Section 92a of the German Penal Code (StGB) and Section 45 (5) of the German Penal Code (StGB)
Sections 93 to 100a of the German Penal Code (StGB) in conjunction with Section 101 of the German Penal Code (StGB) and Section 45 (5) of the German Penal Code (StGB)
Section 102 (1) of the German Penal Code (StGB) in conjunction with Section 102 (2) of the German Penal Code (StGB) and Section 45 (5) of the German Penal Code (StGB)
Sections 107, 107a, 108, 108b of the German Penal Code (StGB) in conjunction with Section 108c of the German Penal Code (StGB) and Section 45 (5) of the German Penal Code (StGB)
Section 108e (1) of the German Penal Code (StGB) in conjunction with Section 108e (2) of the German Penal Code (StGB) and Section 45 (5) of the German Penal Code (StGB)
Sections 109e, 109f of the German Penal Code (StGB) in conjunction with Section 109i of the German Penal Code (StGB) and Section 45 (5) of the German Penal Code (StGB)

Last update: 1 May 2014