The criminal police investigated twelve Weilheim residents for electoral fraud – because they accidentally signed twice for the “Radentscheid Bayern” referendum.
Weilheim's city administration had reported the names to the police - an approach that is apparently unique in Bavaria.
– Last year, around 100,000 citizens in the Free State signed for the approval of the “Radentscheid Bayern” referendum.
Only 25,000 were needed for this.
Which is why it certainly doesn't matter that a few citizens appear twice on these signature lists – mostly accidentally.
This happens in all referendums and citizens' petitions, and it is automatically noticed when the lists in the residents' registration office are checked.
Duplicate signatures are invalid and are simply not counted.
The Greens asked the city council for clarification
What then happened in Weilheim is likely to be unique in Bavaria: the criminal police investigated twelve Weilheimers on the basis of their double signatures for attempted election fraud.
They were summoned for questioning as suspects.
Because the local town hall had transmitted their names and data to the police.
The Weilheim city council faction of the Greens is therefore stunned – and asked for clarification at the most recent council meeting.
"Innocent guarantors summoned to the police"
More than 500 citizens signed in Weilheim between June and October 2022 for the approval of the referendum, according to the request: "Only 0.38 percent of the signatories - without bad intentions, probably by pure mistake - signed twice within this long period of time .” The fact that these twelve “responsible citizens were summoned to the police because of 'attempted election fraud'” is “unprecedented in Bavaria”, the Greens complain.
Weilheim overreacted here for reasons unknown to us.
From a letter from the “Radentscheid Bayern” coordination office
This is confirmed by the coordination office "Radentscheid Bayern", which is "very surprised" about the procedure in Weilheim in a letter to the parliamentary group: "We have not heard from any other municipality that such advertisements have been made there." Some municipalities have listed, how many valid and invalid signatures they found during the check, and listed the duplicate signatures in the reasons for the latter – “without any consequence having followed”.
Double signatures are “a fairly common reason for an invalid signature in all municipalities.
Weilheim overreacted here for reasons unknown to us.”
"Obscurities" in the Weilheim regulatory office
When asked by the Greens in the city council, Weilheim's main office manager, Karin Groß, explained how this reaction came about.
In doing so, she referred to information that the Bavarian Ministry of the Interior had published on its website on the "assessment of the referendum".
It says: "Multiple signatures for the same petition for a referendum are usually made accidentally or in good faith due to the ignorance of the signer." Therefore, "the law enforcement authority should only be informed if there are special indications of an attempt at an electoral crime (...)."
Exactly when such special indications exist is “unfortunately not specified in the instructions from the ministry,” said Groß.
This led to “ambiguities in the responsible regulatory office”.
The police had to investigate immediately
Due to the "uncertainty of how to deal with such multiple signatures", Weilheim's regulatory office contacted the Weilheim Police Inspectorate and described the situation.
They asked for the data to be transmitted for clarification – which the town hall did.
"Now the police are investigating the allegation of election fraud," explained Groß: "We were not aware that a corresponding request from our part to the police would lead to investigations." The city administration was then no longer able to intervene in the procedure.
City councilors concerned about solar investors
The Kripo must "investigate at the slightest suspicion of a crime," explains Chief Inspector Andreas Pätsch when asked by the local newspaper.
Therefore, all twelve citizens who were reported by the city had to be summoned.
The mostly half-hour one-on-one conversations would have shown: “These are all normal citizens who had no bad intentions at all, but accidentally registered twice over a period of several weeks.”
The public prosecutor's office dropped the proceedings due to insignificance
The public prosecutor's office then dropped the proceedings due to insignificance.
With that, the matter is settled, so Pätsch, the citizens have to fear “no entry anywhere”.
The public prosecutor's office wrote to those affected that they were "exceptionally refraining from criminal prosecution".
This is followed by the note “that future violations cannot be expected to result in the proceedings being discontinued”.
There have been similar cases in Weilheim before
The Kripo representative is not aware that in the service area - the districts of Weilheim-Schongau and Bad Tölz-Wolfratshausen - another municipality would have reported double signatories to the police.
The Weilheim town hall had already been included in the (clearly failed) referendum "Removal of the state parliament" in autumn 2021.
To date, nothing has been made public about this.
Municipality: "We apologize for the inconvenience"
The city administration's answer to the current Greens request says: "The aim of our request to the police was never to denounce innocent citizens or anything similar.
We regret the inconvenience this has caused.” For future applications for referendums, the signatures will be checked “correctly as usual”: “Based on the experience we have made, we now know how we can deal with the information from the Bavarian Ministry of the Interior in relation to possible Avoid election fraud through multiple signatures.”
Greens see “danger to our democracy”
However, the Greens fear “that in future citizens will no longer participate in grassroots democratic decisions for fear of reprisals”, as they write in the question: “That would be a great danger for our democracy and certainly not for the city of Weilheim either on purpose."