“Pass Egal Vote” – Giving a Voice to the Unheard

In allowing noncitizens to cast a simulated ballot, SOS Mitmensch aims to foster inclusion in Austria’s restricted political system.

In international Vienna, a third – 31% – of the population will not be able to vote in the upcoming city elections. In response, activists have launched the Pass Egal Vote (passport doesn’t matter) to give a voice to the growing community that is excluded from Austrian politics. 

Organized by the human rights group SOS MitmenschPass Egal is a symbolic election, open to all Viennese residents above the age of 16. For the past five years, the organization has held the simulated election at a polling station on Heldenplatz, where voters could fill out and submit their ballot, as in a regular election. However, due to COVID-19, this year’s Pass Egal election is taking place until Oct. 6 as postal voting only. (See links for ballots and information below.)

With the initiative, the human rights organization hopes to raise awareness for half a million Viennese residents who are barred from participating in politics for having the “wrong” passport. Many people belonging to this group are long-time residents or were even born and raised in the city. According to Der Standard, 80% of those ineligible to vote have lived in Vienna for over five years, and 53% have lived in the city for more than ten years. 

Global City

Vienna is unarguably a diverse and multiethnic city. Currently, 45% of the population has a migration background (both parents born abroad), 37% are themselves foreign-born, and 31% are foreign citizens. But at the same time, the naturalization rate is only 0.8%.

Eugene Quinn, an activist for the campaign and co-founder of Vienna’s urban hub space and place, calls this “scandalous” and believes it fosters exclusion. 

“Despite being born here and dying here, [immigrants] are somehow not encouraged to feel like they belong and can make an active contribution to the life of the city,” said Quinn, who has been a vocal supporter of the Pass Egal initiative. “It’s a question of whether Vienna wants to be an international city or a provincial village,” he said on the project’s Facebook page. 

But because Austria has one of the strictest naturalization laws in Europe, many often have no other option. Austrian citizenship rests on the principle of “ius sanguinis,” also known as the right to blood, meaning citizenship is primarily acquired through your parentage. For all others, becoming an Austrian citizen is extremely challenging. To be eligible you must have been living here for six years, demonstrate an intermediate level of German, earn an income of over €1,400 a month if single, and usually more than €2000 if you have kids, and pass a citizenship test. 

Additionally, Austria prohibits dual citizenship, which discourages many from naturalizing. Quinn argues that giving up one citizenship for the other is not as easy as one may assume.

“Giving up your old passport, your old nationality can be quite expensive, and it takes a long time to disengage,” Quinn said. “You also lose a lot of rights, pensions, health advantages, and you’re not looked on so well by the government of your old country.” 

Quinn himself is a British citizen and long-time resident of Vienna, who says he has no desire to naturalize.

“If there was a Vienna passport, I wouldn’t mind having it, but I don’t identify very closely with Austria,” said Quinn. “From my perspective, it would somehow be a lie if I stopped being British.”

Much-Needed Reform

For people like Quinn, who want to become more involved with the city, an extension of voting rights would be a good option. However, neither the turquoise-green federal government nor the red-green city leadership has shown willingness to address voting reform. On the contrary, recent Austrian politics, especially under Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, has more often seemed increasingly nativist and anti-immigrant, which may encourage the formation of the parallel societies that it so fears

“Almost every country in the world fears losing some of its cultural identity, but at the same time, I think it’s a misunderstanding,” Quinn said. “Inviting people to vote means that they become more like the rest of the population and get involved in the community and political life of the city.”

You can find instructions and a ballot to download here at: https://www.sosmitmensch.at/pass-egal-briefwahl, with a further click for instructions in English at other languages at: https://www.sosmitmensch.at/pass-egal-wahl-mehrsprachige-infos/

Amina Frassl
Amina is Metropole's online content manager. She writes about news and news analysis and commutes between Vienna and Berlin as she completes her studies in journalism and politics at NYU.

Help us help you

“Strong media and independent journalism are built on the shoulders of subscribers. Your support means the world to us.

Benjamin Wolf
COO & Managing Editor

The coronavirus outbreak affects and challenges your life in big and small ways. Metropole is here for you and we are proud to be your news source during this crisis.

But just as the coronavirus has increased the need for independent journalism, it has also undercut a major revenue source of media companies, ours included – advertising.

We need your support to keep it up – donate or subscribe and #helpushelpyou!

Support Metropole!


 

RECENT Articles

Enforcement of Mask Rules by U-Bahn Security Triggers Accusations of Racism

A routine intervention by Wiener Linien staff escalated into alleged use of excessive force; feelings run high while body-cam evidence may prove critical.

How Coronavirus Is Affecting Austria’s Neighbors

Here’s how European countries are managing the second wave of COVID-19 – including statistics, measures and an analysis of the current situation.

Coronavirus in Austria & Vienna | Second Lockdown Sweeps Across Europe

The coronavirus has arrived in Austria. Here’s all you need to know about current measures, including where to get help, information and tips – updated regularly.

Metropole’s 10 Films to Watch At the Viennale 2020

Austria’s premier film festival enters the pandemic age with extra screens and a great selection of world cinema.

Hold the Line

With cases skyrocketing again in Europe, it is time to remember the advice a public health expert gave us in April: The virus is unforgiving to unwise choices.

Facing the Closed-Door Topic of Migrants and Sexual Assault

While most crime is down, alarming increases in violence against women, often by recent migrants, increases the pressure on efforts to support successful integration.
 

METROPOLE NEWSLETTER

Join over 5,000 Metropolitans, who already get monthly news updates and event invitations.

X
X
X