Substitute vote (right to vote)

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The substitute vote , also called alternative vote , contingent vote , auxiliary vote , secondary vote or second preference, designates an additional vote of the voter in the electoral law, which only comes into play if the party actually preferred by the voter (the so-called "first preference") fails because of the threshold clause and thus failing to enter parliament.

In the German-speaking countries there are currently no elections in which the voter has the option of assigning a substitute vote.

Definition of terms

The term "substitute vote" not only refers to a single electoral element (namely the additional indication of a second preference which, under certain conditions, becomes an effective vote), but also means, depending on the context, the electoral system working with such substitute votes as a whole. On the other hand, not every voting system in which the voter can assign one or more subordinate preferences in addition to a first preference is referred to as a substitute voting system. Rather, there are a large number of ranking selection procedures, which all work according to a technically similar principle, but differ in terms of their field of application (choice of party lists vs. choice of people) and / or with regard to the separation criterion, the achievement of which ends the voting process or (in the case of the droop rate ). In particular, the following ranking procedures should be strictly separated from one another:


In view of threshold clauses , many voters tend to choose the “smallest evil” among the parties with a certain chance of entering parliament , instead of voting to a party that is more in line with personal ideas in terms of content, but which probably fails due to the threshold clause. give away". The security of the substitute vote is intended to encourage the voter to vote more honestly. On the ballot paper, he has the option of choosing another party in addition to his actually preferred party, which will receive his vote if his preferred party actually fails because of the threshold clause. In the case of the simple substitute vote, it is of course advisable to assign it to a party who is very likely to skip the threshold clause.

The substitute vote has been discussed in political science since the 1970s as an instrument for avoiding tactical voting behavior . On the one hand, the substitute vote could prevent parliaments from being fragmented. On the other hand, the voters could vote without risk according to their sincere political convictions and would be relieved of tactical voting behavior when casting the party vote , since they could still vote for the “lesser evil” among the established parties with the substitute vote.

In total, 2.6 million votes (6.0%) were not taken into account in the distribution of seats in the 2009 Bundestag election , as they went to parties that did not reach the 5% threshold. In the federal election in 2013 there were 6.8 million votes (15.7%), as the FDP and AfD, along with others, failed because of the threshold clause.

Possible procedures

Two procedures for the evaluation of the substitute votes are obvious:

  • One-stage procedure: All votes for parties that are below the threshold clause according to the main votes are deleted; in their place, the substitute votes of the voters of these parties are counted.
  • Multi-stage procedure: Only the party with the fewest main votes is deleted, and the substitute votes are evaluated by their voters. This is repeated until there are only parties left who have skipped the threshold clause. Then the threshold clause can also be skipped with the help of the substitute votes. In this variant, the monotony criterion would be violated, i. H. a party could miss the 5 percent hurdle because voters vote for it instead of voting for another party (cf. monotony violation ).


In addition to the allocation of a single substitute vote, it is also conceivable that the voters rank several parties according to their preferences ( preference choice ). In this process, a voter's party vote is transferred until it either goes to a party that has skipped the threshold or all of the voter's specified preferences have been passed.


In Germany in 2015/16 there were attempts in Saarland and Schleswig-Holstein to introduce the substitute vote into the respective state election law. In both federal states, the pirate factions had introduced corresponding bills. While the Saarland initiative was rejected by a majority of votes from the CDU, SPD and Bündnis 90 / Die Grünen, the Schleswig-Holstein bill was discussed more intensively, but ultimately also not implemented.

In September 2017 the Federal Constitutional Court passed a ruling that there was no constitutional obligation of the legislature to introduce a substitute vote. This decision has been criticized in parts of the literature.

In Austria , Switzerland and Liechtenstein there have so far been no attempts to supplement the right to vote by introducing a substitute vote.

Individual evidence

  1. Björn Benken: What is a dual choice? , accessed October 8, 2019.
  2. Jörg Valeske: Jack Meitmann: Consistent democracy . Book review
  3. Wilko Zicht: Position paper on the integrated runoff election. (PDF) More Democracy e. V.
  4. Nikola Schmidt: deleted without replacement? How any voice could count . In: Perspective Daily , June 29, 2016
  5. Heribert Prantl : The Turbo Voice . In: Süddeutsche Zeitung , January 3, 2016
  6. State parliamentary group of pirates in Saarland: Bill to change electoral regulations , printed matter 15/1541 of October 7, 2015
  7. ^ Saarland Landtag: First reading of the law introduced by the PIRATE parliamentary group to amend electoral regulations , meeting on 13/14. October 2015
  8. State parliamentary group of pirates in Schleswig-Holstein: Alternatives to the draft law from printed matter 18/385 of November 4, 2013
  9. Home Affairs and Legal Committee of the Schleswig-Holstein State Parliament Minutes of the meeting on May 7, 2014
  10. Article in the SHZ of July 13, 2015: Substitute vote in state elections: SPD wants to rethink pirate proposal , accessed on October 17, 2019
  11. Federal Constitutional Court: Decision 2 BvC 46/14 of September 19, 2017 , Rn. 80-82
  12. ^ Philipp Barlet: Discussion of the decision - Constitutional conformity of the federal election law despite the non-introduction of the contingent vote? , in: ZJS 2/2018, pp. 179–188

See also


  • Ernst Becht: The 5% clause in the electoral law . Guarantee for a functioning parliamentary system of government? (=  Marburg writings on public law . Volume 2 ). Stuttgart 1990, ISBN 3-415-01542-4 .
  • Eckhard Jesse : Right to choose between continuity and reform. An analysis of the discussion about the electoral system and changes in the electoral law in the Federal Republic of Germany (1949–1983) . Droste, Düsseldorf 1985, ISBN 3-7700-5129-7 .
  • Eckhard Jesse: The five percent hurdle . In: The time . No. 2 , 1987 ( ).
  • Eckhard Jesse: Reform proposals to change the electoral law . In: From Politics and Contemporary History . tape 52 . Federal Agency for Civic Education , Bonn 2003, DNB  021247129 , p. 9 f .
  • Jan Köhler: Parties in competition. On the competitive chances of non-established political parties in the legal system of the Federal Republic of Germany . Nomos, Baden-Baden 2006, ISBN 3-8329-1679-2 , p. 140 ff .
  • Hans Meyer: Electoral system and constitutional order. Significance and limits of electoral system design according to the Basic Law . Metzner, Frankfurt am Main 1973, ISBN 3-7875-5236-7 .
  • Philipp Barlet: Constitutional conformity of the federal election law despite the non-introduction of the contingent vote? Discussion of the decision on the Federal Constitutional Court, decision of September 19, 2017 - 2 BvC 46/14 (=  Journal for Legal Studies . 2018, p. 179). ( [1] [PDF]).
  • Werner Speckmann : 5% clause and subsidiary choice . In: Journal for Legal Policy . No. 3 . Beck, Munich / Frankfurt am Main 1970, DNB  011134755 , p. 19 8 f .
  • Ulrich Wenner : Blocking clauses in the electoral law of the Federal Republic of Germany . Lang, Frankfurt am Main / Bern / New York 1986, ISBN 3-8204-9141-4 , pp. 412-416 .

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