So you want to vote in Germany

Better bring a calculator and set a few hours aside… Germany’s elections are governed by complex rules, and the multitude of parties and proportional representation makes for much fun filled time. We’ve copied below the ballot for the upcoming state elections in Baden-Wuerttemberg. [see correction below] There are 12 parties, and each has up to 60 candidates on its list. You have a total of 60 “votes” which you are free to distribute as you wish. Each candidate may receive up to three “votes.”

If you can’t be bothered to worry too much, you may bring in your preferred list on election day, in which case every candidate on your list gets one vote. Or, you can give some votes to your favorite list, and round it up with a few votes for other lists by copying the names and numbers of those candidates onto your preferred list.

One result is that election advertising is done not only by the parties, but also by specific candidates “Vote for me, I’m number 47 on the SPD list!”


Should this seem like too much trouble, you may be better off registering for an absentee ballot for the upcoming Canadian elections. The absentee ballot is there is, well, much simpler.


Added: A German reader points out that the elections are city/council, and not state, elections. (We lazily noted that the elections are held across the federal state of Baden-Wuerttemberg, and ran with that. Jetzt koennen unsere deutsche Freunde sich ueber uns lustig machen. 🙁 )


Comments: 10


In many European countries, the complex rules are designed to keep a far-right party that might be able to get 5% of the vote from getting any seats at all.


In the Netherlands you also vote for a party member. Each political party has it’s own “list number” so you vote for list/candidate.

This is what a Dutch voting computer looks like:

As you see there is quite a lot of choice 😀


I?m sorry to have to correct you!
But sadly (no!) these are not
state elections only town council
and county (ist that the right word?)
elections. (Regional elections?)

State elections and federal elections
are still more simple. 🙂
More to the point, the idea behind that
“fun” 🙂 is to give the ordinary citizen
more rights.
(And that?s the reason why this system or
similar systems is currently used only
in German regional elections. 🙂 )

For your readers:
Political parties do have a lot of power in
German elections and the whole voting system
is pretty much centered around the political

For example candidates of any party are not
listed in alphabetical order but in order of
their importance/influence in any given party.
The party (party members) determine the order
of their candidates on the voting lists.
So if you just vote for a party list,
the first, then the second, the third candidate
(and so on) will get elected.
That was the “old” system.
For example the town/county council has 30
members. Your party got 50% of the votes so the
first 15 candidates on your list were elected.

The idea behind this complicated voting system
is that you as a voter can decide to back up
candidate number 47 on the party list by
giving him/her three of your 60 votes and
(hopefully) propelling him/her upwards on
the “list”.
The 30 candidates (from my example) with the
most votes would get elected.
Leaving behind candidate 10 on the party list
for example.

And by creating your “prefered list” you can
vote for candidate A from party X, candidate B
from party Y, candidate C……
You get the idea.
You?re not restricted to just vote for one
party when you detest 50% of their candidates. 🙂
You can design your “own” town council.

Although I readily admit I believe that our
political parties made the “new” voting system
so complex in the hope that most voters won?t
bother to really distribute their votes. 🙂

60 votes for me and I can give up to three
votes for any candidate?
Why not give me one, three or five votes – to
keep it in one digits 🙂 – and let me distribute
them like I choose.

So, I like the “idea” of the “new” system but
not how it was implemented.



Where the hell did you find a clothespin?? And an old-style wood and spring type at that? I issue applause in your general direction. 🙂


wow leave it to the Germans to make voting require an advanced degree.


I’d be curious what the vote turnout is in Germany. Can you imagine if it was that way in this country? Shit, you’d get 10% turnout.

Don’t tell the fundies about this, though. They would love this kind of scheme.


So what’s the clothespin for? Does everyone who votes in Canada get one?


Xan writes: “Where the hell did you find a clothespin??”

JimMA adds: “So what’s the clothespin for?”

Uh, just what do you folks use to fasten your clothes on a clothesline???


Ahh, it’s just provided for scale. Now I understand. I thought it might be left over from those days early in Canada’s history, when voting was conducted under water and the ballots had to be hung out to dry. Or something. 🙂


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