Chemnitz. On September 26, voters across the country will decide which parties and MPs will be represented in the Bundestag and how well they will be over the next four years. How do you vote? What should you consider as a voter? Heiko Hößler answers the most important questions.
All German citizens who are at least 18 years old on election day and who have had their place of residence or habitual residence in Germany for at least three months have the right to vote. The exceptions are people who have been deprived of the right to vote by a court. Under certain conditions, Germans living abroad can vote. And who can be elected? Those who stand for election must also be German citizens and have the right to vote. There are two columns on the ballot. What are they used for? On the left the direct candidates, on the right the state party lists. Only some of the parties fielded direct candidates in each constituency – so there are far fewer registrations in the left column. In some constituencies, however, there are also individual independent candidates. What is the order of the parties on the piece of paper? According to the number of second votes they obtained in the previous election in the respective federal state. Other parties or lists then follow in alphabetical order. Where should I make my crosses – and how many? One in the left column, one in the right column. Each voter has two votes: The first is for a direct candidate in his constituency (on the left), that is to say for a particular person. He gives the second vote (on the right) for the state list of the party of his choice. It is the most important. The proportion of second votes a party obtains determines its degree of representation in the new Bundestag. Should I give my first and second votes to the same party? You can choose a candidate from Party X for the first vote and for the second vote for the list of Party Y. Do I tick both boxes? You can also cast only the first or only the second vote. The vote actually cast is then counted regularly; the other, not expressed, counts as a null vote in the overall result. For example, you can color the circle behind or in front of the desired entry. The main thing is that the will of the voters is clearly and unambiguously recognizable. And if I don’t check the box and just throw the slip of paper in the ballot box, then the first and second votes are counted as void. The two votes have in practice The Bundestag has 598 regular seats. Half of the mandates go to direct candidates. In each of the 299 national constituencies, the direct candidate with the most first votes is elected to parliament. He will keep the mandate definitively, and the other half of the mandates goes to the candidates appearing on the national party lists. Each federal state is entitled to a certain number of seats in the Bundestag according to its population. For Saxony, for example, this figure is 32. Depending on the percentage of second votes that a party has obtained in the federal state concerned, it is entitled to a certain proportion of these mandates. The seats will be distributed among the parties that made the jump to the Bundestag. To do this, a party must win at least five percent of the second vote or at least three direct mandates nationwide in the election. How does the math work? It sounds complicated – and it is. At the end there is a result which translates the second percentage of votes of the parties into mandates. From the number of seats thus calculated for a given party, are then first deducted the mandates which have already been filled by the direct candidates elected from this party in the respective federal state. The remaining seats go to the candidates from the list of countries that did not obtain a direct mandate – in the order in which they appear on the list. Does it still work? It happens quite often that parties get more direct mandates than they are entitled to seats based on their second vote in the respective federal state. However, none of their direct mandates can be taken away from them, so how do you solve the problem? So many additional mandates are given to the parties concerned in the respective federal state that all directly elected deputies also get their seats, but this skews the election result. Consequently, this “surplus” is compensated in an additional step at the federal level: with so-called compensation mandates. In principle, the other parties elected to the Bundestag receive so many additional mandates that in the end the distribution of seats corresponds exactly to the balance of power given by the second votes. However, there should not be more offsets than excess mandates, but it does mean that Parliament will be bigger than expected. Instead of the planned 598 members, the current Bundestag, for example, has 709 members – more than ever. This is primarily due to the fact that more parties are represented in parliament. Experts have calculated that the new Bundestag could have around 1,000 members in extreme cases. What are politicians doing to prevent Parliament from getting bigger and bigger? The Bundestag has decided to reform the electoral law. Thus, for the first time, the excess mandates are partially compensated across national borders and three excess mandates are not compensated by compensatory mandates for the other parties. Experts doubt that will do much. The Greens, the Left and the FDP consider small parties to be at a disadvantage and have sued the Federal Constitutional Court against the amendment. According to an urgent decision of the judges, the new rules will remain for the time being, but the main decision is still pending. How long are the polling stations open on Election Sunday? From 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. prove at the polling station that I have been vaccinated against Corona, that I have collected or tested? No, there are no such access restrictions and no contact records. However, mouth and nasal protection must be worn in polling stations. Last but not least, it serves to protect election workers. It’s also a good idea to bring your own ballpoint pen. Can I vote where I want? No, only at the polling station indicated in the voting notice. Anyone who wishes to vote in another – for example because it is accessible to people with disabilities – must request a ballot. However, this is only possible until the Friday before the election, 6 p.m. In an emergency, such as a sudden serious illness, this may exceptionally continue until election day at 3 p.m. In a pinch, you can also do this without the vote notification, as long as you can identify yourself. Then the electoral commission checks if you are on the electoral list, can I take my companion to the voting booth? Only one person is allowed to stay there at a time to keep the election secret. However, people with disabilities who cannot fend for themselves can appoint an assistant and be escorted to the hut. The latter can also be a member of the electoral commission. The assistant is not authorized to exert any influence and is bound to secrecy. I have requested postal voting documents, but have not yet sent them. When do I have time? It is not possible to drop them off at the next polling station. Ballots received too late will no longer be taken into consideration. I have already voted by mail, but I wish to change my decision. Is it possible? The postal voting station is not authorized to return received postal voting letters. When are postal votes counted? Like those at normal polling stations, they will not be open for counting until 6:00 p.m. on polling day. Can I vote but abstain from voting? At most, you can cast an empty ballot or make it invalid. Both then count as null votes. When is a ballot invalid at all? You can only mark one candidate in each of the two columns of the ballot. If you make more crosses or add comments or even a signature, the ballot is invalid. In addition, you must fill the piece of paper in the voting booth and fold it in such a way before leaving it that you cannot see where you made your crosses. Otherwise, the election would not be secret. What if I made a mistake or accidentally invalidated the ballot? You can then request a new ballot. The old must be destroyed immediately. There is the same exit if you have only folded the ballot outside the voting booth and are therefore not allowed to throw it in the ballot box. How should I behave in the voting room? You must refrain from anything that could disrupt the process or influence other voters. Photographing and filming in the voting booth – for example with a smartphone – is prohibited. Anyone caught doing this can be rejected by the electoral committee at the ballot box, and then I am not allowed to vote? Also in this case, you can request a new ballot and vote again according to the rules. Old paper should be destroyed immediately. Can I watch the vote count? anyone who is interested can watch it. But if you disturb the process, the electoral committee can kick you out of the room. Where can I find more information on the Internet? The “” provides comprehensive information about the federal election in an online special, provides candidate portraits, background information, news, poll results and more. The legal basis for the election can also be found on the Internet, such as the Federal Election Law and the Federal Electoral Regulations. If you’re still not sure which party to vote for or want to make sure you’re doing the right thing, you can use the Wahl-O-Mat from the Federal Civic Education Agency. Using a topic catalog, you can check completely anonymously which parties you agree with and to what extent. The parties were previously questioned about their positions on 38 selected theses. 39 of the 40 parties that present themselves with state lists participated. The Wahl-O-Mat is available as a website, an app, and also a download. The website also provides general information on parties and the electoral process. But there are also other selection aids on the internet that work similarly to Wahl-O-Mat.
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