from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A constituency is the - usually geographically contiguous - sub-area of ​​an electoral area in which eligible voters vote on the filling of one or more mandates . The assembly to be elected can be the national parliament or that of a member state .

This differs from the constituency conceptual constituency (Wahl Sprengel) , which is only an organizational unit of the vote counting. Constituencies are special constituencies.


The constituency is an early construct of democracy . When the Roman Republic had subjugated all Italian territories and made them allies , they were divided into electoral districts (so-called tribes ) in order to be represented in Rome in this way .


Constituencies can be differentiated according to the number of mandates to be awarded in the constituency as well as according to the type of electoral procedure used.

If exactly one seat is allocated per constituency, one speaks of single constituencies (or one-person constituencies ), in which the applicant wins with a relative or absolute majority . There are also electoral systems with multi-mandate constituencies (or multi-person constituencies ), i. This means that there is more than one mandate to be won in them. Allocating only one seat per constituency is the older procedure and accordingly more widespread worldwide. Multi-mandate constituencies have existed in Ireland for many decades, for some time also in the elections to the Scottish regional parliament and in the elections to the Hamburg parliament . Examples of electoral systems with multi-mandate constituencies are the binomial electoral system used in Chile and Indonesia and the system with non-transferable individual voting , which is common in Japan, among others .

Furthermore, a distinction is made between constituencies according to the electoral procedures that are used in them. Accordingly, a whole range of possible constituency typologies are conceivable. Both single constituencies and multi-mandate constituencies can be combined with a wide range of voting procedures.

The oldest and most widespread method to this day is relative majority voting . This is the case, for example, in the election for the British House of Commons , the US House of Representatives , the Indian House of Commons and the election of direct candidates for the German Bundestag.

The elections for the French National Assembly are based on the Romansh majority voting system. In those constituencies in which no applicant was able to unite at least half of the validly cast votes, there will be a runoff in a second ballot. The two strongest candidates take part in the runoff election. Additional candidates take part if they have received the votes of more than 12.5% ​​of the eligible voters .

In the case of elections to the Australian House of Commons , voting is also carried out in single-constituencies, but using the instant run-off voting process.

In Ireland's multi-mandate constituencies (in which three, four or five mandates can be obtained depending on the size), the principle of transferable individual votes is used.

In the federal state of Hamburg, seats in the multi-mandate constituencies are allocated through constituency lists, which can be cumulated and variegated .

Constituency division

In modern democracies, the division of electoral districts is often a political issue, as various contradicting aspects must be taken into account in the electoral division.

First of all, the principle of equality of choice (one man - one vote) must be observed. This essential electoral principle ideally requires that all constituencies contain the same number of eligible voters. In practice this is not easily possible. If the constituencies include significantly different numbers of eligible voters, the voting weight of the individual electorate varies depending on which constituency they belong to. In Germany, the constitutional courts of the federal states have declared constituencies to be unconstitutional on several occasions because the size of some constituencies deviated too much from the mean size of the constituencies.

For organizational reasons, it makes sense to use existing administrative units (municipalities, districts or similar) as a basis when dividing constituencies.

The electoral districts should often be based on evolved geographical areas, ethnic settlement areas or language areas (such as in elections to the Belgian Chamber of Deputies ).

In single constituencies , in particular, there is the possibility of manipulative constituencies, which in the United States is known as gerrymandering . This means that constituencies are cut in such a way that very high results are achieved for one party in a few constituencies and narrow majorities for the other party in many constituencies. To avoid this, the constituencies must be structured as similarly as possible, i.e. have approximately the same number of residents, citizens or eligible voters per mandate to be awarded (tens to hundreds of thousands, depending on the size of the area). In addition, care is often taken to ensure that they have a similar sociological structure. Above all, however, the division must be made on the basis of clear uniform principles.

Individual states


Bundestag constituencies 2017

In Germany there since the federal election 2002 299 constituencies (also: parliamentary constituencies ) in elections to the German Bundestag ( conditioning for BWahlG ), which in turn in electoral districts divide. In cases where proportional representation is used (e.g. European elections , federal elections, state elections, state elections), the constituencies are also electoral districts for the casting of those votes that decide on the distribution of mandates according to state lists .

The constituencies should be divided so that each constituency includes roughly the same number of the German population. In the 2009 federal election , each constituency comprised around 250,000 residents with German citizenship. The number of Germans in a constituency should not deviate from the average by more than 15% upwards or downwards. If there is a deviation of more than 25%, the constituency must be re-tailored (see e.g. Section 3 (1) No. 3 BWahlG), which also entails changes to neighboring constituencies. An electoral district may only be located within a federal state , other regional authorities (e.g. districts, districts, municipalities) should not be cut up as far as possible (see e.g. Section 3 (1) No. 1 and 5 BWahlG). Larger shifts in the population figures of the individual federal states can lead to the number of constituencies in individual federal states changing, which also results in a redesign of constituencies. An independent constituency commission makes proposals for the distribution of constituencies to the federal states and their layout ( Section 3 (3) BWahlG); the final division is determined by the legislature in the federal electoral law.

The mandates of those MPs who have won a constituency are called direct mandates . In elections to the German Bundestag, in addition to direct mandates, an equal number (since 2002: 299) mandates are awarded to list candidates, so that distortions that otherwise occur to the detriment of smaller parties are offset. The decisive factor for the distribution of seats in the Bundestag is therefore not the number of direct mandates won, but the overall percentage of the parties. For example, the FDP received 14.6% of the validly cast votes in the 2009 Bundestag election , but none of the 299 successful direct candidates came from its ranks. The approximately 15% of the seats in the German Bundestag to which the party is entitled were determined exclusively via the state lists.

Even in the state elections, the electoral area is divided into constituencies. Bavaria is a special case, where there is a twofold subdivision: first according to the Bavarian districts , which are called constituencies, and then further according to constituencies, which have the same meaning in Bavaria as the constituencies in other countries.

In the Empire , too, there were constituencies in the elections to the Reichstag . In the German Empire, the majority vote applied in single-constituencies, as is still common in the United Kingdom today: Whoever received the most votes in a constituency received the mandate, possibly after a runoff. There was no compensation for the losing parties, such as in the form of a state list. There were a total of 397 constituencies; in the first Reichstag election in 1871 , which did not take place in Alsace-Lorraine , there were 382.

There were also constituencies in the Weimar Republic , but these were far larger than the constituencies of the imperial era and fulfilled a different function: in each constituency, a larger number of members was elected on the basis of proportional representation (see electoral law and electoral system of the Weimar Republic ). Depending on the number of eligible voters, this number varied from constituency to constituency. In 1918 the number of constituencies was set at 38; Since Alsace-Lorraine was already French again in the elections to the National Assembly in 1919, there were only 37 constituencies in that election, due to the loss of the constituencies (and provinces) of Poznan and West Prussia in the 1920 Reichstag election, only 35. This number remained until for the last Reichstag election in 1933.

For the individual articles on constituencies, see:

Historic German constituencies:


For the elections of the National Council , the electoral area is divided into 9 regional constituencies (which correspond to the 9 federal states) and 39 regional constituencies according to the federal structure . (see National Council election regulations ). Before the election, each state constituency is assigned as many of the total of 183 mandates as there are residents there after the last census, using the quota method according to the largest fraction (according to Hare ) . These mandates are distributed accordingly to the regional constituencies.


Each of the 26 cantons forms an electoral district. Each constituency is entitled to at least one seat on the National Council , regardless of its population . The remaining 174 seats are distributed proportionally to the constituencies (= the cantons). Decisive for the allocation is the total resident population of the cantons according to the results of the last census. The constituency with the most national councilors is the canton of Zurich .

Each canton is represented in the Council of States with two members each (the half-cantons with one member each). The canton of Zurich with 1,520,968 inhabitants has the same number of seats as the canton Uri with 36,433 inhabitants.

Since each constituency corresponds to a canton, the word constituency is rarely used. The word constituency is common in the canton of St. Gallen , which until the end of 2002 was divided into 14 districts . On January 1st, 2003 the 14 districts were replaced by 8 constituencies . As of January 1, 2013, the administrative structure of the Canton of Lucerne will be changed to the extent that the previous five offices will be replaced by six constituencies .


Elections to the Belgian Chamber of Deputies are held in eleven constituencies, which correspond to the ten provinces and the Brussels capital region. For the elections at the regional level and the elections to the provincial councils there are differently tailored constituencies.

The constituencies in Belgium are not to be confused with the electoral cantons , which organize a number of municipalities under a common electoral evaluation office.


In the Principality of Liechtenstein , the term constituency refers to the two regions of Oberland and Unterland


The Constitution of Namibia states that there should be between six and twelve constituencies in each region of the country, each of which sends a council member to the regional council. One of these council members is elected as a representative for the National Council. There are currently 121 constituencies in Namibia.

United States

For the election of the US House of Representatives , the US states are divided into 435 Congressional electoral districts. Every 10 years after the census, each state is assigned mandates in proportion to its population. In most federal states, the (federal) state legislature decides on the layout of the constituencies.

Web links

Wiktionary: constituency  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Constituency layout , also Redmap
  2. ↑ Allocation of constituencies for the election to the 17th German Bundestag. In: Federal Center for Political Education. September 1, 2009, accessed April 26, 2019 .
  3. ^ Johann Hahlen in: Festschrift for Hans Engel. Wuppertal 2000. ISBN 3-932735-49-8 , pp. 163-184.
  4. ^ Website of the German-speaking Community of Belgium: The DG in the Belgian State , accessed on August 30, 2013