For the first time in my life, I’m going to try to navigate the bureaucracy necessary to claim my right as an Auslandsdeutscher to vote in the early German federal election on 18 September.

As a public service to other Germans living in member states of the Council of Europe, I’ll explain the process.

You’re entitled to vote in the German federal election if you:

  • Are a German citizen as defined by Article 116 of the German Basic Law,
  • Are at least 18 years of age on 18 September 2005,
  • Have lived in the Federal Republic of Germany for three consecutive months after 23 May 1949, and
  • are not excluded from voting

If you meet these criteria, you need to gather a bunch of information to fill out a rediculously complex form. You will need the following materials, which German officialdom clearly expects you to have lying around in a nice neat spiral binder or something:

  • The postal address of the Gemeindebehörde (local authority) that you were last registered with
  • The address and postcode of the most recent place where you were registered as living in Germany.
  • The dates that you were registered and de-registered from these addresses
  • Your passport or Personalausweis (National ID card) number alond with the date of issue and the issuing authority

Right. Got all that stuff? Good. Now download a form from a web site of the Bundeswahlleiter (Federal Director of Elections) called, in superb German bureaucratese, “Antrag auf Eintragung in das Wählerverzeichnis”. (PDF)

Adobe Acrobat will help you fill this out neatly in duplicate. When you’re done, print it out, stick a 60 pence stamp on an envelope and send it to the Wahlamt of the local council of the last place in Germany where you were a resident. I found mine using Google.

They will enter you onto the electoral register and send you all the materials you need for a postal ballot.

If you don’t have access to the Internet, you’re clearly not reading this, but you can also get a paper copy of the form from your local embassy, such as this one, in London.

But hurry. The deadline is 28 August.

Update: My postal ballot has arrived.