Right to vote

General information on the right to vote

The right to vote refers to the right to participate in political elections in Austria. Universal suffrage should not be taken for granted. it was only introduced in Austria in 1907 (for men) and 1918 (for women).

General elections are not the elections in which we are asked to vote. As an employee, you can cast a vote in the Chamber of Labour elections, works council and youth council elections or, if you work in the public sector, you can vote for your staff representatives. Elections are also held in other chambers. If you are a student, you can vote in elections to the Austrian Student Union (Österreichische Hochschülerinnen- und Hochschülerschaft). If you are a school pupils, you can elect your class representative.

The right to vote

The "active" right to vote is the right to cast votes in elections. Austrian citizens are entitled to vote if they are not excluded from the right to vote because of a court conviction and if they have reached the ages specified below:

  • Viennese elections (Municipal council and provincial parliament elections)
    • You must be aged 16 or over on election day and primarily resident in Vienna
      Non-Austrian EU citizens who are primarily resident in Vienna can vote in district elections (but not at municipal and provincial elections). Non-Austrian EU citizens cannot vote for the municipal council, as this is also the provincial parliament for the Province of Vienna. According to the Austrian Federal Constitution, the Landtag as a legislative body may only be elected by Austrian citizens.
  • European elections
    • You must be aged 16 or over on election day and registered in the register of EU voters in an Austrian municipality as of the cut-off date.
      Non-Austrian EU citizens primarily resident in Austria can either vote for Austrian Members of the European Parliament or for the Members of the European Parliament from their Member State of origin.

The right to participate in referendums, popular consultations and European Citizens’ Initiatives is determined on the basis of the voting rules for national parliamentary elections.

The Electoral Law Amendment Act 2007 reformed electoral law at federal level,  including by lowering the voting age : The minimum age for voting was lowered from 18 to 16, and the age at which you can stand for election was lowered 19 to 18 (except for presidential elections). This sent a clear signal to young people from policy-makers that young people are trusted to make political decisions. This is particularly important because political decisions usually have long-term effects on people’ lives and on society.

People in large municipalities who have reached voting age will usually receive an official notice of an election. This notification is normally sent to the person’s main residence well before the election. This notice also contains information about the polling station for your local area.

Voters can cast their votes at the polling station on election day provided they present an official photo ID  or other proof of identity. Voting is not mandatory at Austrian elections.

Right to stand as a candidate for election

The right to stand as a candidate for an election and to be elected is referred to in Austrian law as "passive suffrage". All eligible Austrian citizens over the ages specified below are entitled to stand as candidates:

  • Viennese elections (Municipal council and provincial parliament elections)
    • You must be at least 18 years old on election day and be primarily resident in Vienna
      Non-Austrian EU citizens primarily resident in Vienna are eligible to stand in district elections (but not at municipal and provincial level). Non-Austrian EU citizens cannot stand as candidates in Vienna’s municipal council elections, as the municipal council in Vienna is also the provincial parliament (Landtag). According to the Austrian Federal Constitution, only Austrian citizens are eligible for election to the Landtag as a legislative body.

Non-Austrian EU citizens main residence in Austria have the right to stand for election as Austrian Members of the European Parliament.

Withdrawal of the right to vote

The right to vote can only be withdrawn on the basis of an individual judicial decision. The competent criminal court may, on the basis of the circumstances of the individual case, withdrawal an individual's right to vote if they

  • have been convicted in a binding judgment of a premeditated criminal offence and sentenced to a (non-conditional) term of imprisonment of more than five years
  • have been convicted of certain offences, e.g. treason, electoral fraud, National-Socialist revivalism, terrorism, etc., and sentenced to more than one year’s imprisonment by a (non-conditional) binding court judgment

The right to vote is withdrawn when the sentence becomes binding and restored as soon as the sentence has been served and any associated precautionary measures entailing deprivation of liberty have been served or have ceased to apply.

Withdrawal of the right to stand as a candidate

A person who has been sentenced by a domestic court to a custodial sentence not exceeding six months, or to a conditional custodial sentence exceeding one year, for one or more acts committed with intent and to be prosecuted ex officio, is not eligible for election to the national parliament, the office of Federal President, the European Parliament or Austrian provincial parliaments.

Conditions for municipal council elections cannot be more restrictive than for the elections mentioned above, except for the fact that people who have resided in a municipality for less than one year may not be entitled to vote in that municipality or stand as a candidate there if their stay there is obviously only temporary.

Legal basis

Up-to-date information on the right to vote, the right to stand as a candidate, withdrawal of voting rights, non-eligibility etc.

Certified Translation
Last update: 7 February 2022

Responsible for the content: Federal Ministry of the Interior