German voters go to the polls on Sunday, 24 September, to elect the 19th Bundestag. Here are some important facts and figures about the election.
Polls are open from 8am to 6pm
About 61.5 million German adults are eligible to vote. According to official numbers there are 400,000 less voters than in 2013. The breakdown of those eligible to vote is: 29.9m men, 31.7m women and three million first-time voters. But voting is not compulsory.
Where to vote
Voters cast their ballot in their main place of residence. The community sends a letter to all eligible voters with an invitation to vote. The polling station is indicated here, too.
Why you cast two votes
On their ballots voters will be able to mark two crosses.
- “Erststimme” or first vote. The first allows voters to choose a candidate in their district. Germany is divided into 299 districts. The candidate with the most votes in one district automatically has a seat in parliament, so 299 lawmakers from the districts are sent to Berlin. It is the only way for an independent candidate to make it into the Bundestag. One district represents around 250,000 eligible voters.
- “Zweitstimme” or second vote. Even though the name might suggest otherwise it is the vote with more impact. With the second cross on their ballot, voters choose a party. The candidates sent to the Bundestag by the party are put together on the regional electoral list. Each party is then given a number of seats in the Bundestag that is in proportion to its share of second votes (for example, 40 per cent of the vote would equal 40 per cent of the seats).
It is possible to vote for a candidate of one party in the first vote and vote for another party in the second vote. An interesting fact: If the candidate from the first vote is independent and makes it into parliament, the second vote is not counted. This rule is designed to prevent a double influence on the composition of the Bundestag.
The turnout in 2013 was 71.5 per cent – the numbers have been shrinking since 1998 when 82.2 per cent of voters participated. The record for turnout was set in 1978 with 91.1 per cent.
Election of Chancellor
All the MPs in the German parliament vote for a candidate. This person needs an absolute majority of MPs in order to become the new chancellor of Germany.
A total of 42 parties are participating in this year’s election, but not all of them stand in the election in each of the federal states. Eight of them only present candidates for the first vote.