Why are independent voters so limited

Suffrage / electoral system

1. Right to vote

The right to vote (Wr) in the broader sense of the term contains all legally fixed regulations that affect the election of corporations or public officials. The Wr. in the narrower sense defines the right to participate in the election of corporations or office holders, actively as a person entitled to vote and passively as a person eligible for election. The principles of the narrower Wr. Are usually standardized under constitutional law. In modern democracies, general, equal, direct and secret Wr. elected. These characteristics of democratic elections have only become established over time. In the process, their understanding has also changed. Today the terms say:
  1. In general: regardless of gender, race, language, income or property, occupation, status or class, education, denomination or political conviction, all citizens who meet certain essential requirements are entitled to vote: a certain age, citizenship, residence in the electoral area, possession of the intellectual Powers and civil rights, full legal capacity. The residence requirement decreased in importance in the 1990s due to the fact that citizens who live abroad were able to practice the Wr. (External voting) (Nohlen / Grotz 2007).
  2. Equal: every eligible voter has the same voting weight - the count of the votes of the eligible voters must be the same. This means, on the one hand, that all (historical) class, curiae and plural voting rights are incompatible with the principle of equality, and on the other hand, that the constituency division in electoral systems, the effects of which depend essentially on the constituency, must always be checked to determine whether the proportion of the population does not violate the principle of equality regarding the number of MPs to be elected in the constituencies.
  3. Direct: the voters themselves determine the electorate without "the interposition of a foreign will between voters and → MPs during or after the election process" (K.-H. Seifert).
  4. Secret: it must be legally and organizationally guaranteed that the voter can make a voting decision that cannot be recognized by others.
In D there is the general, equal, direct and secret Wr at the national level. for men since 1849. According to Article 38 of the Basic Law, "the members of the German → Bundestag [...] are elected in general, direct, free, equal and secret elections". Since 1.1.1975 the active and passive Wr. uniformly linked to the completion of the 18th year of life. To Wr. and eligibility is further elaborated by the Federal Election Act of July 23, 1993 in the version of August 5, 2009 in Sections 12-15: In order to be eligible to vote, it is necessary "to have held an apartment in the Federal Republic of Germany for at least three months or otherwise usually on (to) hold ". In order to exercise the right to vote, it is necessary to be entered in an electoral roll or to have a ballot paper that enables postal votes to be cast (Section 14). "If the other requirements are met, those Germans [...] who live outside the Federal Republic of Germany on the day of the election are also entitled to vote, provided they have lived in an apartment in the Federal Republic of Germany for at least three consecutive months after 23.5.1949 and before they move away, or otherwise habitually have stopped "(§ 12). "Excluded from Vienna is 1. who does not own the Vienna as a result of a judge's verdict", 2. who is incapacitated or is under guardianship due to mental infirmity, 3. "who is based on an order according to § 63 in conjunction with § 20 of Criminal Code located in a psychiatric hospital "(Section 13). i.a. "It is not possible to elect 1. anyone who is excluded from Vienna according to Section 13, 2. who, as a result of a judge's verdict, does not have the eligibility for election or the ability to hold public office" (Section 15 (2)). The mandate for a member of parliament is inconsistent ("incompatible") with the office of the → Federal President (GG Art. 55) and that of the Federal Constitutional Judge (GG Art. 94). There is also incompatibility for civil servants, judges and employees of the → public service (GG Art. 137, Law of August 4, 1953). These persons can be legally elected, but must leave office if the election is accepted.

The epithet "free" added to the classic components of the Wr. In Art. 38 GG does not contribute anything essentially new to the definition of the Wr.. It was intended to distinguish the political practice of elections in the bourgeois-democratic constitutional states from elections held in the socialist countries with a Bolshevik character. However, this distinction arises substantially from the term and the functions of choice (→ elections / elective functions). Nonetheless, the adjective free has established itself internationally for evaluating the quality of elections, supplemented by the adjective fair, which refers to the general conditions of competition judged from the point of view of equality (e.g. financing of parties and → election campaigns, access to the media).

Table 1: The expansion of the right to vote in Germany 1871-2009 in selected elections
Eligible voters voter turnoutSubmitted
year Section. in thousandsin% of the populationSection. in thousandsin the
Election area
valid Voice. in
% d. Bev
1871 7.656,219,44.148,052,09,4
189010.145,921,7 7.702,371,514,6
191214.441,922,212.260,684,218,3
191937.362,163,130.524,883,049,9
193042.957,768,935.225,882,053,7
194931.207,666,324.495,678,550,4
196938.677,365,933.523,186,754,9
198745.328,074,0 38.225,383,561,9
1990 60.346,675,746.995,977,858,3
199460.396,374,347.743,679,158,7
199860.762,774,149.947,082,260,1
200261.432,974,448.582,879,158,9
200561.870,775,048.044,177,758,2
21500962.168,48944,005,57570,8
Sources: Vogel, B./Nohlen, D./Schultze, R.O. 1971: Elections in Germany, Berlin / New York. Lindner, R./Schultze: Germany, in: Nohlen, D./Stöver, Ph. (Ed.) 2010: Elections in Europe, Baden-Baden. Stat. Federal Office.


2. Electoral system

2.1 Function and typology

Electoral systems represent processes by which (a) voters express their party and / or candidate preference in votes and by means of which (b) numbers of votes are translated into mandates. The technical regulations made by an electoral system (Ws) encompass the entire electoral process from the election application regulated by electoral law to the determination of the mandate result. Four areas can be distinguished:
  1. The (possible) subdivision of the electoral area into constituencies (single, small, medium and large constituencies). It is the most important variable in determining the impact of a Ws.
  2. The candidacy (individual candidacy or various list forms: rigid, loosely bound, free list; possibility of constituency-bound or constituency-free lists, etc.).
  3. The voting procedure, whether and how the voter can give one or more votes (single voting, multiple voting, and further: preference or alternative voting, cumulation, variegation).
  4. The vote accounting procedure, the regulation of which is already partly determined by the design to 1-3, but still contains the most important variables for the impact of a Ws.s according to the constituency division. These include: a) the criteria of majority or ratio (see below); b) the accounting level (constituency, constituency association, region / state, state / federal government); c) Divisor (d’Hondt method) or optional number method (Hagenbach-Bischoff) and respective variants; d) (possible) utilization of surplus or residual votes; e) (possible) threshold clauses.
The technical regulations of Ws.en, which can be varied and combined in many ways (see Nohlen 2009a for details), have a twofold effect on the election results. On the one hand, they influence the voting decision of the voter by placing him in front of a specific decision-making situation when casting his vote. The voter makes his choice accordingly; The regulations of the Ws. by structuring the party and / or candidate preference of the voter co-determine the content-related decision. On the other hand, different technical regulations in the transfer of the number of votes in mandates lead to different election results. H. different parliamentary strengths of the → parties. The effects of Ws.en on the vote-mandate relationship also influence party preferences and the voting behavior of those entitled to vote.

The concrete Ws.e in the liberal-democratic political systems are usually the result of compromises between the most important social and political groups. This also explains their enormous diversity, which we are used to reducing to the contrast between majority voting and proportional representation as the two basic types of Ws.en. One should understand majority voting and proportional representation as principles of representation that are antithetical to each other. As a principle of representation, majority elections aim to form a majority and accept the disproportionate number of votes and mandates that are characteristic of election results in Great Britain. The proportional representation, on the other hand, aims at a parliamentary representation of the parties as possible according to their share of the votes. Both basic types of electoral system have advantages and disadvantages, which are assessed differently depending on the democratic theoretical and political location. How Ws.e actually works can only be determined through an empirical individual case analysis.

Source: Andersen, Uwe / Wichard Woyke (ed.): Concise dictionary of the political system of the Federal Republic of Germany. 7th, updated Aufl. Heidelberg: Springer VS 2013. Author of the article: Dieter Nohlen