For me, voting is a civic duty, but more than 20 percent of people in our country see it differently. I’ve been asking myself for a long time: How can one voluntarily not vote? Give me a moment to hear both opinions.

Voting is the basic prerequisite for everything. Without elections there is no democracy. Even low voter turnout puts the fundamental democratic idea at risk. I prefer to vote locally. Walking into the voting booth with my ballot in hand is magical.

Perhaps I am so aware of magic because I was raised by a woman who came into the world in 1923. From my great-grandmother. Women in Germany were able to vote and be elected for the first time just four years before they were born.

I’ve been asking myself for a long time: How can a responsible citizen not want to vote? How can someone have so little interest in their own vote? For me, it’s the ultimate signal that they don’t have a problem with a lack of freedom. It’s a bit like a zero-interest attitude. Above all, not voting is contrary to freedom.

When the topic of non-voters comes up, I always think of media manager Mathias Döpfner, who once wrote: “Democracies are societies of naysayers. Dictatorships are yes-man societies. Anyone who has the courage to say no is a friend of freedom, the nodding recipient of orders and the submissive yes-man are its enemies. Freedom is not comfortable. Freedom without responsibility is not freedom.”

How right he is. Freedom means responsibility. Also the responsibility of casting your vote! Hundreds of thousands of people in our country see it differently. In the federal election in 2021, the proportion of people who did not vote was 23.4 percent. A whole lot of lost votes for our democracy.

If you now imagine the classic non-voter as a bitter, forgotten, written off old man. Not at all. Young people are even less likely to vote than older people. 30.1 percent of young people did not vote in 2021. How can that be?

Nena Brockhaus, born in 1992, is a business journalist, television presenter, political commentator and four-time Spiegel best-selling author (Unfollow, Pretty Happy, I’m not green, Old Wise Men). After stints at Handelsblatt and BUNTE, she moderated the political talk show “Viertel nach Acht” for BILD from 2021 to 2023. With her column “Nena and the Other Opinion”, Brockhaus would like to contribute to a differentiated opinion in our society – sometimes through unpopular theses and the expansion of what can be said.

It’s time for the other opinion. I pick up the phone and call a 24-year-old non-voter. She doesn’t want to say her real name. The fear of professional disadvantages is too great. An indictment of our debate culture. Of course you can not vote. When did we Germans just lose our desire for debate and opposing opinions? But of course I accept your concerns.

For the purposes of my column, let’s just call her Larissa. Larissa works in the media industry and has never voted in her life. She has no plans to use her vote in the future either.

She answers it. I don’t waste any time bantering and jump right in: “Larissa, why don’t you vote?” Larissa laughs at my directness and replies: “For me, there’s nothing worse than politics. I hate politics. Every time the topic comes up, I get bored. I don’t understand a lot of things either. There is also no format that brings politics close to me. Maybe still Funk on Instagram. Otherwise I don’t read anything. I do not want that. So why should I vote? I don’t know about it. There is also no party that appeals to me as a young person.”

My reaction: “Voting is not just about what you choose, but also about what you prevent. Let’s take the AfD. Don’t you want to prevent the rise of the AfD?”

Larissa thinks about it and answers: “That’s the only slap I would give myself. If the AfD didn’t exist, it wouldn’t matter to me that I didn’t vote. The only reason I have to force myself to vote is so that the AfD doesn’t get even stronger. But it’s not important enough for me to go to the election office. If the elections were digital, I would do it immediately. But as. I don’t care enough to do that.”

I’m amazed: not voting out of laziness? What would have to happen for Larissa to vote? When I ask her, she thinks longer. Her answer: “For me to go to the election office, both politicians and journalists would have to get off their high horses. Young people read much less newspapers. I would never go to the Bundestag website in my life. And please speak to us in simple German. Talk to me like you would if we were going out for coffee on Sunday. Attack me with your emotions and not with my boring speeches.”

Point for Larissa. I’m finding it increasingly difficult to tolerate politicians’ platitudes. But doesn’t Larissa really like anyone? Is there not a single politician she would vote for?

Larissa doesn’t have to think long about this: “No, really not. Somehow it’s always just men who talk. There needs to be more loud, young women in politics. Politicians are too uncool for me. Why don’t you dress more casually, I often think to myself. I’m sure Franziska Giffey could look significantly more approachable than in a two-piece suit and updo.”

Well, Larissa can’t have that little interest in politics. Franziska Giffey is Berlin’s mayor. Not nearly as well known as Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, for example.

Larissa also has a strong opinion about Chancellor Olaf Scholz: “It’s good that he’s on Tik Tok now. You can reach us young people via social media, but he doesn’t do a great job either. He’s boring. It would be even better if his videos were cringe. I’m still more interested in cringe than boring. When it’s cringe I listen, when it’s boring I switch off.”

When the word cringe is mentioned, I suddenly feel very old at 31 years old. How are over-60 politicians supposed to fare in our country? We hang up. I will recommend Larissa the film “Half the World is Ours – When Women Fought the Right to Vote”.

The synopsis describes the struggle of the women who were called suffragettes well: “We were ridiculed and mocked, we were tailed and arrested, we were beaten and imprisoned. We fought all over the world – for women’s suffrage. We were ready to sacrifice everything. Our money, our family and our lives.”

When you think about the fact that young people today simply find it too stressful to leave the house, you can only shake your head. But perhaps you, dear reader, see it completely differently.

Allow me to ask: Is voting a civic duty, or do you understand the disenchantment with politics? Are you Team Brockhaus or Team Larissa?

If you would like to share your own opinion with me in the comments section, I would be happy to hear it. And feel free to write to me with whom I should argue. Which person would you be attracted to? What other opinion do you want to read?

Rest assured, I always read all your comments. Each. Every week. With this in mind: If you like, we’ll read each other again next Saturday.

Yours, Nena Brockhaus