Bureaucracy and suffrage

Every bridge (and there are many), every lamp post, every tree along the streets are adorned with election posters. Photo: Mick. 2015.

Every bridge (and there are many), every lamp post, every tree along the streets are adorned with election posters. Photo: Mick. 2015.

Today is election day in Denmark. The Danes residing here will decide who should lead Denmark for the next four years. It is a great day for democracy, the day when people can exercise their democratic right to influence the society they wish to live in. A society better for people, better for the planet.

I have written before about my sadness that I cannot participate in this great democratic process because I am not currently a Danish citizen. When new Danish dual citizen laws commence on 1 September this year, I will be paying my 1,200 DDK fee to make my declaration that I am a Danish citizen. Then I will not only be able to vote if I reside in Denmark, I will be able to freely travel in and out of Denmark on an EU passport and I will regain my birthright as a Danish citizen.

One wonders about the value, when many election posters end up vandalised or in the lakes. A form of branded waste? Photo: Mick. 2015.

One wonders about the value, when many election posters end up vandalised or in the lakes. A form of branded waste? Photo: Mick. 2015.

Denmark has a unique way of keeping track of people, which is the envy of bureaucracies tied down by privacy rules, desperately trying to avoid double dipping or double handling of people’s details: The Central Person Register – or Folkeregister in Danish – a system established by law in 1924. The register is a Danish institution that registers all people born in Denmark with a Central Person Register (CPR) number consisting of six digits for their birth date plus three random digits and a control digit. If you come to Denmark to reside, you are also allocated a CPR number. This number is of crucial importance to your life in Denmark – it is you Open Sesame to everything to do with Danish bureaucracy. You use your number when visiting your doctor, paying your taxes, changing your address (done in one foul efficient sweep with automatic redirection to your new address), enrolling at university, taking books out at the library, getting a rejsekort (GoCard). It saves you from having multiple cards in your wallet and from remembering multiple random numbers that no-one else cares about, other than the particular part of bureaucracy you are trying to deal with. The number even lets you autofill your address through many commercial sites.

imageBut things can go wrong. For all my rant and rave about feeling like a second class citizen and not being able to vote, Københavns Folkeregister kindly sent to me, to my registered address, a Valgkort – Election Card – inviting me to go to the nominated polling booth with the card to vote today.

For all the Danish efficiency and knowledge tied in to just one number, it seems Københavns Folkeregister made a mistake in not cross checking the data that should be against my number in their register: namely that I am a Danish citizen and therefore not entitled to vote. Perhaps the system just does not have capacity to cope with the situation where someone has relinquished their Danish citizenship and later returned to Denmark, suffering the humiliation of having to get permission to stay through family reunion with their EU citizen husband. I do admit it is odd.

Needless to say I will not take up the invite. It would be fraudulent of me to do so. But it is rewarding to think that I was invited to.

Happy election day!

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5 thoughts on “Bureaucracy and suffrage

  1. Morten

    I would use the kind invitation from City Hall and go to vote, if I were you.
    You are not required to know more about your civil rights than the city in which you live.

    One of my friends is a Danish citizen, works in Denmark and pays income tax in Denmark. He is not allowed to vote today, because he currently resides in Malmö (Sweden). He cannot vote in Swedish national elections either.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. lonebonekaffekone Post author

      Thanks for your comment, Morten. Your friend’s situation was mine and this was one of the reasons I chose to become an Australian citizen: to be able to participate in the democratic processes where I live. Regaining my Danish citizenship will only allow me to vote in Denmark if I chose to continue to reside here: it will not be the open slather some politicians makes it out to be – symbolic and identity confirming, perhaps. I do agree that if you pay your taxes in a country, you should be able to influence its governance. The increased global mobility of people will continue to challenge the traditional nation state that, by the way, is not that old.

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  2. Dina Honour

    Ah…the CPR number. As we are currently on semi diplomatic status, we don’t have CPR numbers (or at least not real ones). So for us, the smooth transitioning of Danes from one address to the next, from one Dr.’s appt. to the next becomes a virtual nightmare as many institutions look at you blankly when you declare you don’t have a working CPR number. And despite my ranting and raving, I still cannot obtain a Rejsekort (other than an ‘anonymous’ one which doesn’t afford me the same fare reductions). That said–there is always the small, American part of me which is happy not to have my movements tracked–at least in such an obvious way. For I know the American government surely knows what we get up to all day and night, but they’re not so out in the open about it ;-). Are you happy with the election results?

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. lonebonekaffekone Post author

      Thanks for your comment. I did not realise that not all people lawfully residing in Denmark are not fully integrated through the CPR system. One of the things that frustrated me when Rejsekortet was introduced was that as a visitor with out a registered address in Denmark, I was unable to obtain one, like you say. And I truly do not understand why – should anyone who travels on the public transport system in Denmark not be able to use the technology and benefit from being a regular user?
      As for the election result, I prefer to stay out of public political debates, on account of my status as a public servant at home 🙂

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      1. Dina Honour

        Smart! Yes, the Great Rejesekort fiasco. It does seem rather user unfriendly, especially toward tourists. Not to mention remember to check in and out. We just faced this with visitors as well and in the end, they were able to download the Mobilbilleter app onto their phone, which is what I use so all was well. Does make you wonder a bit though!

        Liked by 1 person

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