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If the Bundestag rejects the veto, an appeal to scrutiny of elections can be lodged to the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany within another two months. This appeal has to be joined by eligible voters. If the veto is successful, the affected member will lose his or her seat in parliament. This member can in turn file a lawsuit against the adjudication. No appeal to scrutiny of elections against decisions made by the German Bundestag has thus far been successful.

Political parties are required to be membership-based, and the party determines its membership based upon its own bylaws, i. As parties can reject applications without justification, it's possible to discriminate unofficially. Full membership assemblies are used at the local- or district-level, but most parties rely on delegate assemblies Parteitag or party conventions above district-level, although all established parties use non-binding full membership referendums for important decisions such as leadership selection. Only parties that have been represented in the Bundestag or a Landtag by at least five delegates since the last election are entitled to propose their own candidates.

Other parties have to announce their candidature to the Federal Returning Officer in time, i. They must have been accepted as a party by the Federal Electoral Committee beforehand. The applicants from a party must be elected in a democratic and secret election by an assembly of the party members in a constituency or by a similar board appointed by the party. Every party member entitled to vote is allowed to propose candidates. A candidate does not have to be a member of the party.

Since the German Bundestag elections no member of a different party may be nominated.


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A written record of the election must be presented to the District Returning Officer, who is responsible for checking the proposal. He points out possible deficiencies and allows remedies to be made. A county election nomination is only accepted if the nominee belongs to a party that is represented in the Bundestag or the Landtag, or if the party represents a national minority.

Dangerousness, long prison terms, and preventive measures in Germany

Otherwise the nominee must have at least signatures from eligible voters in the constituency. It does not make a difference whether the suggestion is handed in by a party or not. Hence a candidate does not need to be supported by a party in a constituency if he has sufficient signatures. The county election nominee must also nominate a person of trust and a proxy who are allowed to release statements to the leader of the county election.

A county election nomination can be recalled either by a joint statement from the two persons of trust or by a statement from the majority of the signataries of the nominee. Through a declaration from the two persons of trust the name of the suggested person can be changed in case the originally suggested person loses his eligibility or dies. Once the nomination is authorised it can neither be recalled nor changed.

If a candidate with a direct mandate dies before election day, the election is cancelled in this constituency. Within the next six weeks, the election is held again, allowing the deceased candidate's party to appoint a substitute candidate. This by-election follows the same rules as the main election. This means that Germans who have come of age in the time between the main and the by-election are not allowed to vote.

According to the Federal Election Law the nominations for the regional lists basically result from the same system as the constituency nominations.

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In addition, the order of the regional list is determined by secret election. The regional list of a party which is neither represented in the Federal Parliament nor in a State Parliament and which does not represent a national minority, requires for its admission the signing of at least one-thousandth of the state's eligible voters, not exceeding 2, signatures.

For the nomination of confidants and the modification of the regional list, the regulations concerning the constituency nominations are applied correspondingly. For the calculation of the electoral threshold , the candidate lists on state level of one party are generally treated as connected, unless the confidants issue a differing declaration to the Federal Returning Officer.

The voter has two votes. The federal election system distinguishes between 'first' and 'second' votes. However, these terms refer neither to a hierarchical order of importance of the votes, nor to a logical chronological sequence in a valid election process.

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In some state election systems that have two voting systems modelled after the federal election setup, the votes are called 'vote for person' and 'vote for list'. It is important that both votes have distinct functions. The first vote allows the elector to vote for a direct candidate of their constituency , who applies for a direct mandate in the Bundestag see illustration above, no.

Relative majority voting is used, which means that the candidate who receives most of the votes gets the mandate. If the vote results in a tie, the lot drawn by the leader of the regional election is decisive.


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In this case, the votes for the other candidates are invalid. The primary function of the first vote is to personalize the election. As there are constituencies at the moment, the same number of mandates in the Bundestag are distributed to the elected candidates in each district.

However, the first vote does not determine the power of the parties in the Bundestag.

For each direct mandate in a Bundesland the party always receives one mandate less from the second vote. The size and the geographical shape of the electoral constituencies are revised by an electoral committee appointed by Germany's Head of State.

Prof. Dr. Tatjana Hörnle, M.A. (Rutgers State University of New Jersey)

The final decision is made by the German Bundestag and can be found in an attachment to the federal electoral law. For the distribution of seats in the German Bundestag, the second vote is more important than the first vote. This second vote allows the elector to vote for a party whose candidates are put together on the regional electoral list. Based on the proportion of second votes, the mandates are distributed to the parties who have achieved at least 5 percent of valid second votes i. Since the German Bundestag elections, the distribution of seats was made according to the Hare-Niemeyer method.

The proportion of seats a party gets in the Bundestag approximately equates to the percentage of votes the party gets in the election. Discrepancies result from overhang and the electoral threshold. This rule is designed to prevent a double influence on the composition of the Bundestag. A similar problem occurred at the federal election in The PDS got two direct mandates in Berlin , but with only 4. The second votes from the electors who voted for those direct candidates counted nevertheless, since in this case both candidates belonged to a party which had handed in a regional list in the respective Bundesland.

In its decision of November 23, Federal Constitutional Law 79, , the Federal Constitutional Court pointed out the relevant loophole in the Federal Election Law to the legislative body. Abolishing the system with first and second votes with the possibility of splitting votes — meaning the elector's option to vote for a direct candidate and for a party independently — would solve the problem automatically.

German parliamentary election law does not have explicit abstention; a ballot paper without markings on it is considered a spoilt vote separated into first and second vote. Furthermore, votes are spoilt if the voter's intention cannot be recognised without doubt, if the ballot paper contains additions or conditions or if it is not an official document. Since the general elections in , only the first vote is spoilt on ballot papers designed for a different constituency as long as they contain the correct regional list for the second vote.

The law of the German federal election does not consider ballot papers which are marked in a way that endangers the confidentiality of the ballot as, for example, votes marked with an upright cross as spoilt. There are further reasons for invalidity concerning the postal vote: Both votes are invalidated if the envelope for the postal vote is empty, if it contains several differently marked ballot papers or if it actually should have been rejected including also those ballot paper envelopes which differ from the rest in a way that endangers the election secrecy.

In contrast, the votes of voters who die or lose their right to vote before the ballot vote takes place explicitly remain valid. Invalid votes, equally to non posted votes, have no effect on the result of the poll. Nevertheless, their number is officially counted and published. The numbers for a total of twelve categories of partly invalid ballot papers have been published at last for the Federal Parliament elections in Thus one can hardly deduce the reason for the invalidity; whether it was a matter of purpose, mistake or just ignorance of the voting right.

For combinations of invalid and valid votes on a ballot paper, the belonging elected major parties have been deciphered as well. Invalid votes count as non votes in the financing of the parties.


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The parties do not receive any money for them.