Local Election 2021: Doorstep decision day

Effect real change in your community and head to the polls on Tuesday!

Let’s face it: it’s these elections you want to vote in. They pertain to your healthcare (where your baby might be born, where that crucial operation might take place etc), the state of your community (roads, schools and leisure), and how much assistance you get in your integration. That’s an awful lot of money being spent!

It’s understandable if you don’t want to have a say on where Denmark sends its troops or how it polices its streets or rehabilitates its prisoners – maybe you think it’s none of your business. But many of you, as taxpayers, will feel you have the right, and if that’s the case, don’t overlook this opportunity.

Because when that day comes in 20, 30, 40 years time – when governments wake up to how diasporas are as integral to modern cities as good sewage systems – and our right to vote in the nationals is seriously debated, it’s not going to look good if under half of us voted in the last locals.

Poor record of voting
That’s right, Mr Apathy. In the Capital Region in 2017 the turnout among ethnic Danes was 77.4 percent, but among immigrants and their descendants (all foreigners, not just the nasty media branding ‘indvandring’), the rates were just 37.7 and 38.9 percent. In 2013, it was even worse at just 33.5 percent.

These figures were more or less the same in every municipality we looked at, but they are most telling in the Capital Region and Copenhagen itself, as this is where the immigrants can make the biggest difference. It’s not like this is something new: foreigners have had the right to vote since 1980. 

In Copenhagen, fewer than three out of every four residents eligible to vote are ethnic Danes. There are 387,000 compared to 132,000 immigrants (plus 83,000 aged 0-18). Of these, 57,000 are expats (generally from EU countries, the UK and US) and the rest are what the media like to call ‘indvandring’. 

In the Capital Region, the spread is slightly more Dane-heavy at 1.179 million over 299,000. 

Foreign representation
After all, we’ve lost count of the number of Copenhagen mayors who’ve had to stand down in recent years because of one scandal or the other.

By rights, if foreigners account for a quarter of the electorate, at least one of these seven mayors should be ‘one of our own’, but they’re not: not even close. Because when are the foreigners in the country going to harness their power and make a difference?

Besides, don’t we want to send out a signal that we care about this country and aren’t just ships that pass in the night. If we don’t vote, we don’t count: we’re just guests, and we’ll continue to be treated like guests.

Not everyone approves!
Clearly some parties (left bloc stalwarts like Radikale) want foreigners to vote more than others (right-wingers like Dansk Folkeparti and Nye Borgerlige, who want the right taken away).

“I am running for Radikale in both Frederiksberg and in the Capital Region, where the density of foreigners is relatively high, and I not only think these newcomers should have the right to vote, I also strongly encourage them to use it, regardless of which party they favour,” contends David Zepernick, a Radikale councillor in Frederiksberg. 

“To me it’s a way to say welcome, we acknowledge you.  When speaking about foreigners, Danes, especially those on the right wing, tend to emphasise obligations only. I would like to emphasise rights as well. In this case democratic rights!”

Slight the far right
When politicians like Zepernick do reach out to foreigners, it often results in accusations of fishing for votes – yes, from those same right-wing politicians who want you to stay at home and ensure a city like Copenhagen is set up to serve the Danes first and foremost.

“I am aware of the risk of accusations for vote-fishing. And yes, as we are the most pro-European party in Denmark, so it is likely that reaching out to some of the new voters might benefit Radikale disproportionately,” conceded Zepernick 

“But I think this is more a matter of principle than a matter of party politics. I think the old political slogan from the  American Revolution “No taxation without representation” is a source of inspiration, and why shouldn´t foreigners have a say in how their tax money is spent?

So if you like the idea of cocking a snook at some of the nasty politicians on the far right, there’s an extra incentive to vote.

As easy as Tic-Tac-Toe!

Turn up at the right place on the right day and leave some crosses

It’s easy to assume, as a foreigner in an overseas land, that you don’t have the vote. But in Denmark you do: both in the local and regional elections, and they’re next week!

On Tuesday November 16, all you need to do is show up at the location indicated on the poll card (see factbox) you receive by mail (between 08:00 and 20:00) and cross a few boxes: for the parties of your choice in each election, and your preferred individual candidates.  

Theoretically you could spread yourself across four different parties. Given that political action in this country is invariably by compromise, it’s not as absurd as it sounds.

Most of us can vote
So who is eligible? Well, everyone over the age of 18 who comes from a EU country, or Iceland or Norway, or the Danish Commonwealth (providing it is four years of residency before election day). For others, such as Brits now they’ve left the EU, four years of residency is required.

Certain other factors might rule you out: if you are on tolerated stay, have been expelled from Denmark by a court judgement or administrative decision, or reside in Denmark in order to serve a sentence from an international criminal court.

Incidentally, if you pass the criteria to vote, you also pass it to stand for election, provided you have not had a criminal conviction or are serving a driving ban.

Detailed rules for voting entitlement can be found on the ministry of economic affairs and the interior’s website at valg.oim.dk

Handicap access
Polling stations have been arranged to allow the best possible access, not least for handicapped people or those with reduced mobility. In polling stations where there is free access, handicap polling booths have been erected.

All the booths will be equipped with magnifying glasses and additional lighting for those with difficulty seeing.

At polling stations where it is impossible to enter with a wheel chair or similar, a voting room will be set up in the vestibule or in a pavilion just outside the entrance.

Other factors
Voters unable to enter the polling station will also be given the option of voting just outside: i.e in a parked car.

If you have a handicap or reduced mobility, you can change your polling station, but the deadline for doing this has expired for this election.

Obtain more information on the election at kk.dk/valg. For matters concerning Copenhagen Municipality, email them via valg@kff.kk.dk

Poll cards
– Poll cards are sent out approximately five days before the election to eligible voters

– There is no need to do anything before you receive the card

– Contact your municipality if the information on the poll card is incorrect

– Contact your municipality if you haven’t received your poll card two days before the election

– Advance voting is possible. Consult your Citizen Services Center

– If you’ve moved home very recently, you might only be able to vote in the Regionals

– When you vote, present your poll card. Also take an ID just in case

– EU diplomats need to apply to vote

Be an influencer

Your vote will help to determine how over half of the country’s public funds are distributed

Anyone thinking of voting on Tuesday November 16 will be casting a vote to influence local government. But before you put your cross, it is worth familiarising yourself with the ways in which the decisions made by the different bodies affect your daily life and the division of powers between them.

November’s elections are to choose representatives for Denmark’s five regions and 98 municipalities, the two levels of government responsible for providing the majority of the welfare services.

Each year, the government negotiates a budget with the representatives of the local and regional councils – Kommunernes Landsforening and Danske Regiononer respectively. This sets the spending limits for the various services they provide.

For 2021, for example, the municipalities are sharing 267.2 billion, of which the lion’s share will be spent on schools and care for the elderly. The decisions made by these elected representatives can accordingly have an enormous socio-economic impact on people’s lives.

Municipalities are Denmark’s smallest political unit and must comprise between 25-31 elected members. Copenhagen Municipality is the only exception, with 55 members.

Half of all public spending is conducted by the municipalities, which are responsible for a vast majority of public services including schools, care for the elderly, sports, cultural facilities, childcare, adult education and integration programs. 

While the municipalities are obliged to provide certain services for the money they receive from the state, they have enough decentralised power to choose which areas to invest particularly in. This is dictated by the political priorities of the particular council.

Denmark’s five regions were established in 2007 and are primarily responsible for providing healthcare, but they also have a role in areas such as specialised welfare, regional traffic, soil pollution, tourism and initiatives to provide growth in both rural and urban areas.

If you live in Copenhagen, you are covered by the Capital Region Council (Region Hovedstaden), which is headquartered in Hillerød and covers north Zealand and the island of Bornholm.

Each region is run by 41 elected representatives whose main focus is improving the quality of healthcare by, for example, getting cancer patients treated faster, reducing mortality rates in hospitals and extending psychiatric care. Ninety percent of a region’s budget is normally put aside for healthcare.

Due to variations in geography and population, regional councils will tackle their various tasks differently. Different regional councils will also choose to structure their healthcare systems to adapt to local demands and constraints.

The main political jobs carried out by the regional councils are finalising an annual budget, agreeing on an overall health plan and planning the services that hospitals and general practitioners offer.

Copenhagen’s 2022 budget
In September, a nearly unanimous City Hall entered into an agreement regarding the 2022 budget for Copenhagen.

Only Konservative were not part of the agreement, which focused particularly on green initiatives, welfare and activity.

“We prioritise public schools, help to the city’s most vulnerable citizens and more secure school roads, so parents can safely send their children into the morning traffic,” said Copenhagen Mayor Lars Weiss.

“Furthermore, we will step up the green transition of car traffic with thousands of charging docks for electric vehicles. The agreement is an investment in our mutual future.”

Greener roads
More specifically, the city aims to reduce the capital’s CO2 emissions by 24,000 tonnes annually.

To reach that goal, speed limits will be reduced by 10km/h along several stretches of road in the city, while 5,000 parking spots will be transformed into 4,100 charging docks for electric cars and 900 parking spots for share cars.

Additionally, parking zones will be expanded so commuters won’t be able to park their cars for free on the edge of the city before hopping on a bicycle or train for the final stretch to work.

Other aspects of the agreement include 200 million kroner to boosting strengthening pedagogical efforts and hiring more staff at care centres over the next four years.

Sporting lift
Another 250 million kroner will be invested into sports, with new artificial turf pitches earmarked for Emdrup, Lersøparken and Kløvermarken, as well as a new swimming pool in Sydhavn.

Opening hours at ice skating rinks in Ørstad and Østerbro will be expanded to cover the entire year, as will tennis courts in Ryvang and Genforeningspladsen.

Funds have also been set aside to expand the municipality’s noise pollution watch pool to attain a better balance between nightlife and sleep.

And somewhat related, more money will be dedicated to keeping the city centre – along with social hotspots like Havenparken, Nørrebroparken and Amager Strandpark – cleaner during the summer months.

Finally, 300 million kroner has been earmarked for the recruitment of welfare workers such as nurses, pedagogues and health assistants over the next four years.

Cast your vote wisely
So if that sounds like baloney to you, maybe you need to give some serious consideration to who deserves your vote – clearly a party that isn’t currently well represented.

It’s only by voting that we get to have a say in how our public purse is distributed and influence real change.