Danish public elections

The Power of Public Engagement Platforms during the Danish Election

Voting as a democratic human right for everyone?

On November 16th, 2021 have been the regional Danish elections and thousands of people flooded the voting booths to set their cross next to the name of their favorite party. Topics such as healthcare, sustainable and climate action, child care, and the enhancement of cultural and sports facilities were amongst the points addressed by the political parties. This means it is not only important to set that cross for the overall future of Denmark but to also shape and co-create a better regional community. Through democratic public participation in the elections, everyone can become part of the change they want to experience in their municipality. And the term everyone includes also citizens, who are not of Danish nationality. Denmarks’ policies on voting rights include everyone who is over the age of 18 and permanently resides in the municipality or region. This means that also all citizens from an EU member state, as well as Iceland and Norway are eligible to participate. Citizens from a non-EU member state can put their cross in the ballot paper when they have been residing in Denmark for four years. According to the interior ministry, over 400.000 foreign citizens, who reside in Denmark are eligible to vote (The Local, 2021) means that in theory the voting participation and therefore, the codetermination to shape the future of one’s municipality in a collective and equal way, is granted to anyone.

The Paradox between Allowance, Accessibility, and Action

But only because the right to vote is being granted also to foreign citizens, does not automatically include the accessibility to fulfill this right is given in an equal way. Even though there is a high number of foreigners, who live in Denmark and can vote, the casted ballots are being generated by Danes to a high extent. Only 32.1 percent of eligible foreign voters participated in the election, compared to 74 percent of Danes at the municipal elections in 2017. Amongst the residents with the lowest turnout in the Danish elections were residents from newer EU countries, including Romania and Bulgaria (The Local, 2021). Between allowance to fill out the ballot card, understanding the Danish voting principles, and taking action are certain barriers that hinder foreign eligible voters from making use of that right.
Language and an overall sense of overwhelmedness and confusion in regards to the election could be the first ones. Understanding and conceptualizing what each of the many existing parties stands for, and how the individual could benefit from choosing one of them, is a difficult task in itself. But when the agendas of the political parties are rarely explained in English, it becomes almost impossible for foreigners with limited Danish skills to comprehend the amount of information.
Lack of knowledge could be the second reason, why the votes are commonly dominated by Danes. Many foreign residents might not even be aware of the fact that they can vote and therefore, determine the future of their municipality. Furthermore, through the social values existent in Danish society, foreigners might even feel excluded to the point where there is no hope in believing that one’s voice could bring change. The governmental plans on targeting non-western immigrants through stricter policy development might also affect the disbelieve of foreign citizens in Denmark to being heard.
As a result, the action of voting is being overruled by a lack of accessibility to obtain adequate information on the allowance of voting itself, but also on the political agenda from each party for many foreign citizens. This lack of accessibility to not having a voice in political decisions can have a long-lasting effect on sense of belonging, mental health, and overall life quality.

project-vote-tak-on-wesolveWeSolve: Creating Unity through Digital Democracy

One way to tackle these issues is through increased awareness towards public engagement through the concept of digital democracy, which is being determined by using technology to defend marginalized groups. For that reason, the digital public engagement platform WeSolve partnered with the “Project Vote TAK“. Under the framework of inclusivity, transparency, sustainability, and democracy WeSolve engaged more than 5.000 internationals through activities and events to re-shape their thinking about participating in the Danish elections. Through WeSolve’s information and survey tools, we have spread information on the general importance of voting in Denmark as a foreigner, what are the eligibility criteria to vote, what documents are required for the voting process, and where the polling stations can be found. 5.000 people have been reached through public engagement and 5.000 new voices have been to give their vote for a better municipality and a better sense of togetherness.

Through WeSolve´s algorithm, every piece of knowledge about the election has been automatically translated and delivered over the application into the user’s native language. Every citizen can ask questions and obtain information in their language without the fear of alienation and a distorted sense of belonging. As a result, WeSolve does not only provide an important group of eligible voters with insights on the voting itself in a way that makes them feel more welcome in the Danish system but also changes their minds into taking action in any upcoming votes.
Together with the initiative „Project Vote TAK“, International House Copenhagen, as well as Copenhagen Municipality, We Solve managed to bring over 500 people together in 2 live events. Here the foreign participants could meet the upcoming candidates themselves, learn more about their agendas and what issues the city of Copenhagen is facing at the current moment. The WeSolve platform acts as a mouthpiece, which does not leave one out.

The high number of participants show that the concept of digital democracy has a great necessity within Danish society. It does not only create knowledge about the voting process itself to foreign Danish citizens but also ensures that equality and democracy are not being granted amongst Danes but amongst everybody who lives in Denmark and has the right to change the current status quo with their voice. Through digital engagement platforms like WeSolve knowledge is being shared in a way that becomes understandable for every person with their cultural background sharing one country. And this information can counterbalance the numbers between Danes and foreign Danish citizens when it comes to putting a cross on the ballot paper in the next local elections.
Because every voice counts when it comes to creating a better tomorrow for all of us.

References: The Local (2021), https://www.thelocal.dk/20211102/how-many-foreigners-can-vote-in-denmarks-local-elections/

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About The Author

Hendrik Fischer

Master’s degree in Culture, Communication and Globalization within the field of applied sciences. Hendrik worked in NGO's and corporate companies both in Germany and Denmark. Equipped with great people, agile project management, communication and data analysis skills. He helps sustainable start-ups to assess and further improve their value chains.