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First vote

At Bundestag elections, the first vote shall be cast on the left half of the ballot paper. That vote is cast to elect the candidate for direct election nominated in the constituency. The candidate who obtains the majority of the votes cast shall be deemed elected. Thus, the relative majority of votes suffices.

The strengths of the parties in the German Bundestag do not depend on the first votes but on the total number of second votes cast for the Land lists of the parties because the 598 seats in the German Bundestag are distributed in relation to the second votes cast for the parties. The first vote will by exception be of importance for the strengths of the parties in the German Bundestag if

  • a party which has not obtained at least 5 per cent of the valid second votes cast in the electoral area is considered in the distribution of seats among Land lists by second votes in accordance with the first sentence of Section 6 (3) of the Federal Elections Act due to the fact that the party has received at least three direct mandates, 
  • the number of seats is increased because constituency seats have to be retained.

A constituency candidate (candidate for direct election) may, but need not necessarily be on the relevant Land list of his or her party. If such a candidate has already been elected in the constituency he or she is disregarded on the Land list.

The respective field on the left half of the ballot paper remains empty for any party which canvasses for second votes, i.e., a party which submits a Land list for the election but does not present a candidate for direct election (constituency candidate). Political groupings standing for election or candidates for direct election from parties which do not submit a Land list are listed alphabetically on the ballot paper (left half), after the constituency candidates, but below the last Land list printed on the right half of the ballot paper.

At European elections there are no first and second votes, but one vote only.

Legal bases

Sections 4, 5, 30 of the Federal Elections Act (BWG)
Section 45 of the Federal Electoral Regulations (BWO)

Last update: 1 January 2015