from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Voter in the voting booth (Munich 2008 )
View of a polling station in a Munich school (2008)
Voting at the ballot box (Munich 2008)
Counting the votes (Berlin 1946)
Bin as a ballot box , central election office in the technical town hall of Bochum , 2017

An election in the sense of political science is a procedure in states, regional authorities and organizations for the appointment of a representative person or several persons as a decision-making body or authority. From elections, members of parliament (e.g. for state and federal elections ), district , city and local councilors (for local elections), presidents and heads of government , board members , supervisory boards , works councils, etc. Ä. emerge. These office or mandate holders receive their legitimacy from a group of people expressing their will in a previously established procedure. The sum of the individual decisions leads to the overall decision shown in the election result.

The persons who are entitled to vote ( eligible voters ) elect in a fixed procedure ( voting system ) - mostly from a selection - an office or mandate holder or a committee for a fixed period of time.

A distinction must be made between egalitarian and functional representative systems: egalitarian means that all eligible voters are treated equally; functional is an election in which representatives of different status groups elect their representatives in separate ballots (e.g. election of representatives of shareholders, executives and other personnel when electing supervisory boards). In political elections, the only measure allowed to divide the electorate is to assign each voter to a specific constituency and, within that, to a constituency ; otherwise, as with all egalitarian representative systems, the principle: "One person, one vote."

An election event has more tasks than selecting personnel. It politicizes and mobilizes the voters, it also legitimizes the political system. Even dictatorships hold elections to create the appearance of legitimacy, although the selection of political personnel in dictatorships is usually made in advance. The election of the German Federal President is an example of the fact that this is also possible in principle in correct democracies, since the majority ratios in the Federal Assembly are usually known beforehand.

Political election tasks

The main task of political elections in a representative democracy is to appoint organs. The body can consist of several persons, for example members of a parliament . Other organs consist of only one person, for example a president.

As a rule, eligible persons are predetermined or preselected for an election in order to keep the effort for the election low. This is called the candidate list . The composition of the committee to be elected can be influenced.

The expression of will of the individual persons in a vote is called a vote. There are numerous electoral systems with regard to the concrete formulation of votes and their aggregation to form the overall decision. Basic types of electoral systems are proportional representation and majority voting .

Political elections are subject to a number of requirements that have proven to be absolutely necessary in order to actually bring about the desired balance of interests with the elections. They are sometimes expanded to include optional requirements that arise from special interests.

In Germany, political elections fulfill the following tasks:

Requirements for political elections

The following considerations exclude aspects of the design of the options and the mathematical evaluation of the votes. There are extensive treatises on how the will of the electorate can be represented by such electoral systems according to which criteria and which of them could be best suited for a society. This forms a whole science of its own and is in part purely dependent on subjective views on these topics. In particular, there is evidence that beyond a certain complexity of these “will maps” there can be no voting system that simultaneously fulfills all reasonable requirements for mapping functions.

Necessary demands

There are a number of requirements for elections:

  • from the aim of achieving a balance of interests and
  • from the possibilities of affecting this.

A political election must meet the following requirements:

  • authorization: Only those people who are eligible to vote are allowed to cast votes.
  • equality: Each voter may only vote once and with the same weight of votes. (Opposite: class option )
  • Privacy: Nobody can determine which vote a voter cast.
  • Counterfeit security:
    • Valid votes may not be changed (falsified).
    • Valid votes may not be destroyed.
    • No votes may be added; in particular, invalid votes may not be converted into valid ones.
  • Verifiability: Every voter has the possibility, independently of any other person, to check the correctness of the election including all points mentioned above.

The claims are based on the following circumstances:

  • Eligibility: The reconciliation of interests does not work unless precisely those people who are defined as being affected by the goal of the election and who are sufficiently mature do not vote . In the case of political elections, the authority to define this matter rests with the ( constitutional ) legislature . The relevant definitions are set out in constitutions and laws.
  • Equality : The reconciliation of interests does not work if voters can change the weight of their vote at will. To be recognized as “democratic”, all votes must have approximately the same weight.
  • Privacy (secret): The reconciliation of interests does not work if votes are bought or blackmailed. Bribery and extortion are greatly hampered when it is made impossible to determine which vote a voter cast.
  • Protection against forgery: The reconciliation of interests does not work if the number of votes to be counted is forged in any way (by changing, adding or destroying votes) after they have been cast.
  • Verifiability: Anyone can violate any of the requirements mentioned so far. In particular, any person entrusted with enforcing compliance with the requirements mentioned can violate this. A real security against all kinds of election fraud arises only and precisely because all voters are given the right to check compliance with the requirements.

Between the different requirements for an election may lead to trade-offs: If, for example, seeks the goal of universality, one must not ill or disabled people on the selection rule that can transmit their will only orally, although the violation of the secrecy of the ballot means . There should only be an exclusion of the right to vote if persons in care , for whom care has been set up with the three classic areas of responsibility and possibly beyond, can no longer tell an election officer which party they want to vote for.

Also, not all requirements can be consistently adhered to: constituencies that would lead to exactly the same number of voters in each constituency would lead to acceptance problems; In addition, because of the different demographic developments in the regions, the constituencies would have to be redesigned for each election. In the case of postal votes , you have to be able to rely on the assertion that the person entitled to vote has cast the vote (s) himself, as well as on corresponding threats of punishment.

An attempt is made to satisfy the principle of verifiability by:

  • the election is organized and directed by individual representatives (so-called election workers ), but all interested voters and, if necessary, election observers are given access to the work of the representatives;
  • the critical acts of the election - checking for legitimacy and validity and collecting and counting votes - are carried out in public, with any interested person being allowed to participate or control
  • if there is justified suspicion, a detailed check for violations actually takes place (however, the objection of individual voters among thousands is usually rejected).

Additional requirement

An additional requirement for political elections that arise from the historically evolved understanding of justice is that

  • Generality : Every person who belongs to an organizational unit whose representatives are elected is entitled to vote. Eligibility should not be restricted depending on the interests of the person in relation to a number of fundamental freedoms.

What is actually counted among the fundamental freedoms of the people depends heavily on the historical development and the organization concerned and is still subject to strong regional fluctuations today.

Redundant formulations

Some historical formulations are inevitable consequences of the necessary requirements:

  • Freedom : Every voter can cast his own vote without having to do this through third parties. The content of the vote is not monitored. The casting of a valid vote is not compelled (not even if voting is compulsory as in Belgium). This demand arises from the demands of privacy and security against forgery : Security against forgery and privacy both enforce the right to vote independently.
  • Direct election : In the case of a person election , the vote is given directly to a candidate. The candidate does not have the right to give away his votes according to his taste. This demand arises from the demand for protection against forgery: Without the ban on the trading of votes, it cannot be prevented that a person's voice is converted against their will. As a rule, votes must also be cast personally , usually by having each eligible voter put a cross or crosses on an official ballot. "Assistance" is only allowed to a very limited extent and is only permitted for disabled or sick people.
    Elections by electors are exceptional.
  • Transparency : The process of the election can be followed by the public - apart from the definition of the content of the vote of a voter. This is a necessary element of the requirement for verifiability: if a process cannot be seen and understood, it can only be examined at its outer endpoints (what goes in and what comes out). Of this, however, the incoming voices should not necessarily be known (privacy).

Suffrage principles

Generality of choice

The right to vote is general if it is fundamentally available to all citizens who have reached the voting age without the eligibility to vote being made dependent on conditions that not every citizen of voting age can meet (e.g. gender, certain population or professional groups) . It should be noted, however, that an exclusion from the right to vote is usually possible under certain conditions (mostly due to a criminal conviction) (in Austria e.g. in accordance with Article 26 (5) B-VG in conjunction with Section 22 NRWO, see above Point 1 ).

Immediacy of choice

In the case of an immediate election, the distribution of seats results directly from the election result (apart from non-acceptance, later resignation or similar actions by the elected themselves). A subsequent stage (following the election) such as the electors in presidential elections in the USA is not compatible with an immediate election. A stage preceding the election, such as the drawing up of electoral lists by the parties, on the other hand, is compatible with direct elections. The immediate choice is also called direct choice .

Freedom of choice

Elections are free if there is no third party interference in the preparation of election proposals, in election advertising or in the exercise of active or passive voting rights. It must be possible to freely choose from several candidates or parties, and the list of candidates must also be free.

Equality of choice

The equality of the right to vote means that every valid vote has the same voting weight and no circumstances such as marital status, higher education, higher tax payments, etc. may be used for a higher weighting of the votes. This is known as the equal count of all votes in the voting process. It is common, however, that not all votes have to have the same success value; this denotes the votes required for a mandate. So were z. For example, in the 2002 election to the Austrian National Council, 25,978 votes were required for a mandate from the SPÖ, but the ÖVP needed 26,289 votes to gain a mandate. Such distortions result from the design of the seat allocation process .

Another point when evaluating the election result is the so-called weighted result .

Election secrecy

The elections are secret if the voter has to fill in his ballot paper himself unobserved and uninfluenced in a voting booth (or, as in a postal vote, at another location) and throw it folded into the ballot box . It must not be possible to determine how the individual citizen voted. The polling officer at the polling station has to ensure that all voters use the voting booth. Apart from postal voting, folding the ballot paper has replaced putting it in an envelope in order to simplify counting (amendment to the Federal Election Act). The secret ballot is not only intended to protect the voter from unwanted influence on his will-formation in the course of the election process, it should also relieve him of the worry and fear that he will always be exposed to reproaches and disadvantages of whatever kind because of his voting in a certain direction. However, the door and gate are open to organized election fraud and targeted election manipulation through election secrecy, because nobody can trace who voted which party.

Transparency or public of choice

Another principle is the transparency or publicity of the election process. It means that the path of the votes from the ballot slips thrown in to the counting to the formation of total sums and the calculation of any seat allocation is completely traceable. This also means that it is completely possible to observe the path of the ballot box, for example (so that filling the ballot box before the start of the election and exchanging the ballot box for another can be excluded) and that every total of votes for a party (or a Candidates) is the sum of all sub-sums, i.e. every partial calculation is traceable on the chain of calculations from the polling station to the possible seat allocation, so this chain does not have any gaps. Election fraud is often done by means of a missing link in such a chain.

In Germany, this transparency is created by making the election process public, which enables everyone to observe the election ( § 10 and § 31 BWahlG ). In its judgment on voting computers , the previously unwritten principle of public voting was confirmed by the Federal Constitutional Court.

In Austria, the parties admitted to the polls can send two witnesses to each polling station in order to create transparency on behalf of the public ( § 61 NRWO). All member states of the OSCE committed themselves to the transparent implementation of elections in a Copenhagen Declaration from 1990.

“July 6 [1824], Tuesday. The path continued via Arnsberg. [...] reached the friendly town of Hagen. [...] After the evening promenade, dinner is excellent at the table Tableote. People from the area say that strange things go on here in the preacher elections. Since every confirmed person in the city has the right to vote, battalions are formed. Court preacher Ehrenberg in Berlin was a preacher here, and one of the rare people who were elected unanimously without a fight, to which, in addition to merit, the votes bought in the local way also contributed. Another election was imminent, which was to be very stormy, it had already been made and declared invalid because one had forgotten to send the ballot paper to a single servant girl who was able to vote and who had to invite her to vote. "

- Karl Friedrich Schinkel , Kassel and Westphalia

Effectiveness of choice

The effectiveness of the election (also known as the principle of effectiveness ) describes the prerequisite that the elected parties and offices can actually perform their tasks. This means that they can fulfill their tasks and obligations independently of other institutions (e.g. ministerial bureaucracy or lobbyism), that they are not subject to manipulation and that they achieve an effective effect in their respective areas of responsibility. This is another unwritten principle that is derived, for example, in Germany from Art. 38 I GG and Art. 20 I and II GG, which lay down the state objectives and popular sovereignty in representative democracy. Furthermore, it ties in (analogously) with the legitimation chain theory , according to which all sovereign and non-sovereign legitimate actions can be traced back to the will of the people in the election.

"The choice has to make sense to put it bluntly."

- Franz Mayer : Lecture at Bielefeld University (December 16, 2014)

Different systems of voting rights


The right to vote is anchored in the Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany (GG).

Art. 20 para. 2 GG:

All state power emanates from the people . It is exercised by the people in elections and referendums and through special legislative , executive and judicial organs .

Art. 38 para. 1 GG:

The members of the German Bundestag are elected in general, direct, free, equal and secret elections. They are representatives of the whole people, not bound by orders and instructions and only subject to their conscience.

Art. 38 GG lays down the electoral principles, but leaves the details of the electoral lawopen, especially the question of the electoral system ( proportional representation or majority vote ). The details of the procedure for the Bundestag elections areregulatedin the Federal Election Act (BWahlG). Accordingly, the citizens of the Federal Republic of Germany elect their members of the Bundestag according to an electoral system that combines proportional and majority voting in what is known as personalized proportional representation. Each voter can give two votes for this.

Half of the 598 seats in the Bundestag are awarded by majority vote in 299  constituencies . With their first vote, the citizens choose a direct candidate in the constituency. Only one mandate is awarded in the constituency. This wins the candidate who can unite the most votes with a relative majority.

At the same time, citizens vote with their second vote - the so-called chancellor vote - the state list of a particular party . The result of the second votes cast nationwide basically determines the strength of the parties in the Bundestag. However, only those parties that have overcome the threshold clause , the five percent hurdle , are taken into account when allocating mandates .

In addition, due to a low voter turnout or a weak second vote result of a party with direct mandates (e.g. by splitting the first and second vote) in a federal state, so-called overhang mandates can arise, which increase the Bundestag beyond the number of 598 members. These come about when more direct candidates from a party in a federal state reach the Bundestag with the first vote than this party would be entitled to mandates proportionately over the second votes for the respective state list. For example, after its election in 2005, the 16th German Bundestag had a total of 614 members thanks to 16 overhang seats.

However, in July 2008 the Federal Constitutional Court declared the existing right to vote to the Bundestag to be unconstitutional (“ negative weighting of votes ”) and issued a new version to the legislature by mid-2011 at the latest.

Voting fraud is a criminal offense under the German Criminal Code . In § 107a StGB it says: "Anyone who votes without authorization or otherwise leads to an incorrect result of an election or falsifies the result will be punished with imprisonment for up to five years or with a fine."


The right to vote in Austria has its constitutional basis in Art. 1 ("Austria is a democratic republic. Its right is based on the people.") And Art. 26 (1) B-VG ("The National Council is established by the federal people on the basis of the equal, direct, personal, free and secret voting rights for men and women [...] elected according to the principles of proportional representation. ") of the Federal Constitutional Act of 1920. That this is a fundamental right is not least due to Art. 3 , 1. ZP to the ECHR , Art. 138/1/2 EGV and Art. 8b EGV out of the question.

The electoral principles standardized in Art. 26 B- VG also apply to state and municipal council elections in accordance with Art. 95 and Art. 117 B-VG.

An election (and thus also the violation of electoral law principles) can be challenged at the Constitutional Court because of alleged illegality .


The right to vote in the elections to the Swedish Reichstag is regulated in Regeringsformen , one of the four Swedish basic laws. According to this, the right to vote is granted to all Swedish citizens who have reached the age of 18 on election day at the latest and who are or have been resident in Sweden. The Swedish Reichstag always has 349 members, so there are no overhang seats.

The right to vote in municipal and state elections is regulated by the municipal law (Kommunallag, SFS 1991: 900). According to this, the following people are entitled to vote: Swedish citizens and citizens of another EU country, as well as citizens of other countries who have lived in Sweden for at least three years. The age limit of 18 years on election day also applies in municipal and state elections.

The exact regulations for the elections can be found in the Electoral Act (Vallag, SFS 2005: 837, in force since January 1, 2006). After that, general elections take place every four years on the third Sunday in September. (For the 2014 election, September 14th was set, for the first time the second Sunday in September.)

The government can order extraordinary elections.

The seats in the Swedish Reichstag are allocated according to the Sainte-Laguë procedure .

In the general election, the voter can also give a person vote to a candidate from the elected party. All candidates who receive at least eight percent of the total votes for the represented party in the respective constituency are ordered according to the number of person votes at the top of the list. This happens regardless of the original ranking of the list.

In contrast to the German electoral system, there are no first and second votes, so there is no split of votes .

United States

In the absence of a centralized register of residents , citizens entitled to vote must register on the electoral roll before the election .

Electoral justice

As can already be seen from the comparison of majority voting and proportional representation, an electoral process can always lead to results that are mathematically correct, but do not necessarily reflect the will of the voters exactly.

The following example is constructed, but shows the fundamental risks that electoral processes bring with them in different ways: In a fictitious election, the majority vote applies, the parliament has five members who are elected in five constituencies with 100 voters each. The candidates are presented by only two parties (A and B) and all eligible voters vote. If party A wins in three constituencies with 51 votes and party B wins in two constituencies with 99 votes, then party B has 3 * 49 + 2 * 99 = 345 votes or 69% of all votes. So here more than 2/3 of all voters are behind Party B, but it has only received two of five seats and with only 40% of seats is not able to enforce decisions for the majority of voters. This phenomenon called " bias " appeared in the British general election in 1951 and 1974 (February election). Sometimes constituencies are deliberately tailored to produce this effect ( gerrymandering ).

Conversely, with certain electoral systems it can happen that one gets more seats with fewer votes ( negative weight of votes , judged unconstitutional by the Federal Constitutional Court on July 3, 2008). A party that would be entitled to more direct mandates in state A than mandates with second votes can lose a mandate in another state if it receives more second votes in country A and vice versa. This effect could be brought about consciously in the 2005 Bundestag election in the by-election in one constituency.

Historical development

Elections occur in the most diverse forms of society and rule, going back to the oldest traditions and legends. The circle of eligible voters and the electoral procedures are very different. Of particular historical significance are elections in the Greek democracy and the Roman Republic, as well as the development of differentiated electoral procedures (including acclamation , scrutinium , lottery , conclave ) in the medieval city-states . It is not a matter of course that the majority principle applies to votes and elections. For confirmation by a majority ( maioritas ), of which it is only meaningful to speak when the circle of those entitled to vote is clear, the ability / dignity ( sanioritas ) of the voters as well as the elected must come, has been argued from antiquity to the present . In the Middle Ages one had the idea of ​​a - ultimately God-directed - unanimous agreement ( unanimitas ). German law continued for a long time to operate with the fiction that the minority didn't count, but had to join the majority or be silent.

There are many different views on earth about the legality and recognition of elections. In some cases, these are accompanied by radically different views as to the right to participate in elections (although this sometimes represents a subordinate problem for the population).

The UN tried to lay a foundation for the international community in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 21).


The word “right to vote” is ambiguous: on the one hand, it describes the right to stand as candidates and to vote, i.e. the passive and active right to vote , and on the other hand, the number of legal regulations governing elections.

See also


  • Ulrich Brümmer: Parties and elections in Saxony. Wiesbaden 2006, ISBN 3-531-14835-4 .
  • Christoph Dartmann, Günther Wassilowsky, Thomas Weller (eds.): Technology and symbols of premodern voting procedures. Oldenbourg, Munich 2010, ISBN 978-3-486-59654-0 .
  • Wolfgang Ernst: Small voting primer. Guide to the Congregation. Book publisher Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Zurich 2011, ISBN 978-3-03823-717-4 .
  • Erich Mühsam : The humbug of the elections. Berlin 1998, ISBN 3-88220-157-6 .
  • Matthias Niedzwicki: From public to secret voting - voting secrecy according to Article 38.1 sentence 1 of the Basic Law, Article 31.1 LVerf NRW , in: Verwaltungsrundschau (VR) 2010, p. 158 ff.
  • Dieter Nohlen : Suffrage and the party system. Leske + Budrich, Opladen 2004, ISBN 3-8252-1527-X .
  • Ralph Jessen (Hrsg.), Hedwig Richter (Hrsg.): Voting for Hitler and Stalin. Elections Under 20th Century Dictatorships. Campus, Frankfurt a. M. 2011, ISBN 978-3-593-39489-3 ( limited preview in Google book search)
  • Eduardo Posada Carbó: Elections Before Democracy. The History of Elections in Europe and Latin America. St Martin's Press, New York 1996, ISBN 978-0-312-15885-9 .
  • Reinhard Schneider, Harald Zimmermann (Hrsg.): Elections and voting in the Middle Ages. Sigmaringen 1990, ISBN 3-7995-6637-6 .
  • Carsten Reinemann et al .: The late decision makers: Media influences on short-term voting decisions. Springer VS, Wiesbaden 2013. ISBN 978-3-658-02655-4 (print); ISBN 978-3-658-02656-1 (eBook).

Web links

Commons : Elections  - collection of images, videos and audio files
 Wikinews: Portal Elections  - In The News
Wikiquote: Choice  - Quotes
Wiktionary: choice  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Landesbetreuungsamt des Landschaftsverband Westfalen-Lippe: Information sheet on “The right to vote for citizens who, according to § 1896 BGB are under supervision ” .
  2. ^ Theo Öhlinger : Constitutional Law, 6th edition 2005, margin no.374.
  3. ^ Theo Öhlinger: Constitutional Law. 6th edition 2005, margin no.377.
  4. ^ Theo Öhlinger: Constitutional Law. 6th edition 2005, margin no.380.
  5. ^ Judgment on voting computers by the Federal Constitutional Court (dated March 3, 2009)
  6. ^ Document of the Copenhagen Meeting of the Conference on the Human Dimension of the CSCE
  7. ^ K. Fr. Schinkel: Travels to Italy. Second journey 1824 . Aufbau-Verlag, Berlin and Weimar 1994, ISBN 3-351-02269-7 , page 17.
  8. ^ Hagen Keller .: "Commune": urban self-government and medieval "popular rule" as reflected in the Italian electoral process of the 12th-14th centuries. Century. In Gerd Althoff, Dieter Geuenich, Otto Gerhard Oexle, Joachim Wollasch (eds.): Person and community in the Middle Ages. Sigmaringen 1988; Ders .: Forms of choice and understanding of community in the Italian town councils (12th / 14th centuries). In Reinhard Schneider, H. Zimmermann (Ed.): Elections and voting in the Middle Ages. Sigmaringen 1990; Ders .: Elections in the early Middle Ages. In: Christoph Dartmann, Günther Wassilowsky, Thomas Weller (eds.): Technology and symbols of premodern voting procedures. Oldenburg 2010
  9. Werner Malczek: Types of voting. How do you get a reasonable election result? In Reinhard Schneider, Harald Zimmermann (Hrsg.): Elections and voting in the Middle Ages. Sigmaringen 1990, p. 97