Voting chaos in Germany expected

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Saturday, September 17, 2005

This article is part of the series
German federal elections 2005
Election Day

Electoral voting experts are expecting a chaos in the German federal election, caused by the by-election in the constituency of Dresden I, in the state of Saxony. The reason is a bug in the German electoral law, which can force the voters to vote against their political party.

While in 298 of 299 constituencies the federal elections take place on September 18th, a Dresden constituency has to vote on October 2nd, caused by the death of the NPD candidate there, Kerstin Lorenz.

Voters in Germany have two votes, one for a candidate in their constiuency and another for the list of a party within one of Germany's sixteen states. The vote which normally defines how many seats a party gets in the Bundestag is the second vote (party vote). But due to the extreme complexity of Germany's Mixed Member Proportional voting system, voters could actually have "negative vote", as constitutional lawyers call it. This is mainly caused by overhang seats, which occur when a party gains more seats by winning constituencies than they would actually be entitled to according to the Percentage of second votes they get.

Polls suggest that exactly that is going to happen with the CDU in Saxony. The CDU would then actually have to urge their supporters not to vote for them with their second vote because that could change their overhang seat into a "normal" seat, which the CDU would then be missing in another state where no overhang seats occurred thus reducing their total seats by one.

In the 2002 election 49638 party votes were cast for the CDU in Dresden I and caused them to lose the seat of Siegfried Meseck. A complaint against the 2002 election at the German constitutional court is still not decided.