Feature photo: old beer mats for a new election campaign | © Herbert Burkhardt

I have barely come to terms with the fact that the exercise of passive voting rights here in Heilbronn is more of a question of faith than a correct interpretation of the right to vote, when another annoyance comes my way.

You have to know that all of our parties, whether democratic or not, are generously funded with taxpayers' money. This is intended, among other things, to ensure that they have enough resources to be able to advertise themselves and their candidates during the election campaigns. Most of these funds probably flow into the maintenance of pompous party organizations and less into the election campaign. And so the available funds for the election campaign, even if additionally enriched with large and small donations, are likely to be limited. As a community of voters, we Free Voters do not receive any tax money and are financed exclusively by membership fees and donations, which, if you are lucky, add up over the election period.

Our advantage is that there are no disruptive apparatuses and princes who tell the respective candidates when, where and how they have to run their election campaign. People try to coordinate with each other, but the entire election campaign is still structured purely on a voluntary and amateur basis.

Another advantage is that every candidate and their supporters always come up with completely new and even ancient ideas with which they would like to go into the election campaign. The great charm is that it is mostly a trial and error election campaign. Last time, we Free Voters were very lucky with our election campaign and decided, purely for cost reasons, to simply repeat the 2019 election campaign this time. The big mistake is that we made this known in advance!

And now we realize that everything that we liked last time and also worked well has now been banned by the city of Heilbronn. We now have to sue and enforce every single point with the city administration or simply end our 2024 election campaign before it has really begun.

Instead of taking care of its own tasks, our city administration has prepared particularly for the election campaign. As soon as there is a poster of one of our candidates, someone is already on site, creates a photo documentation for a fee and shortly afterwards we receive the corresponding official requests and threats - an election campaign feeling very quickly arises like in dark Germany during the GDR era !

How I would wish it if our city employees were always so hard-working - Heilbronn could be the neatest and cleanest city in the world!

The whole thing is now taking on totalitarian traits; people have learned very quickly from the new twin city and its tyrants.

That's how it is, for example. For example, we allowed trucks to drive all over the pedestrian zone or hold car exhibitions, but we were not allowed to use our small campaign tractor, which is smaller than any car today, for our information stands. Only after a huge amount of correspondence were we allowed to do this, at least for the time being.

We were also forbidden, bypassing any law, from changing our campaign posters after two weeks. After a lot of correspondence, we are now somewhat permitted to do so. However, the city administration continues to put huge obstacles in our way. We receive a plaque for each permitted number of posters. If we want to change our posters, we first have to remove them, transport them to a collection point, professionally remove the stickers from the posters and then present them to the town hall for inspection. A commission then meets and checks the authenticity and number of plaques. Afterwards we may receive new stickers. We can then equip our changing posters with these new plaques and put them up again - if the old places are still free, which is doubtful.

But we also think about replacing damaged posters, as there are a limited number of additional stickers available for this purpose. As soon as we notice that a poster is dirty or damaged, we have to record this with photo documentation and present it to the city administration. In this case, too, a commission checks whether the degree of damage or soiling of the poster is sufficient to receive a replacement sticker. What is not yet entirely clear, at least to me, is whether I then have to remove the stickers from the damaged posters and submit them to the commission for examination and decision?

But what really upsets me is that landowners are now being expropriated for the election campaign. You are not allowed to put up campaign posters on your own property without permission from the city!

The two posters on the left are forbidden, but the two posters on the right are allowed. All four posters are obviously advertising. Reason for banning the posters: the posters in the left picture could be seen from public spaces.

It no longer surprises me at all that the AfD feels really at home in Heilbronn! But professional politicians and press people are unanimously wondering why their fellow citizens are no longer interested in local politics and elections - they don't have to hang election posters or hand out brochures themselves.

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