# How do electoral votes work

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In the case of federal elections, voters can put two crosses on the ballot paper.

With the "first vote" you choose a candidate from your constituency. There are a total of 299 of these constituencies in Germany. An average of 250,000 people live in each of them.

In the individual constituencies, the candidates compete for the first votes of the voters. Each party can nominate one, but independent candidacies are also possible.

Each candidate promotes himself and his party, tours the district and presents topics that he thinks are particularly important for the region and for his party.

Whoever gets the most first votes in his constituency receives a direct mandate and is a member of the Bundestag. All other candidates come away empty-handed.

There are a total of 299 members of the Bundestag.

The principle of the first vote ensures that every region is represented in the Bundestag.

The "second vote" - despite its name, is more important than the first vote: because the second vote determines the majority in the Bundestag - that is, how many of the 598 seats in the Bundestag each party is entitled to. The extrapolations on the election evenings are also about the second votes.

Put simply: if a party has won 40 percent of the second vote, it will get at least 40 percent of the seats in the Bundestag.

The second votes only count if parties have won at least five percent of all second votes or three constituencies. If not, the second votes expire.

With the second vote, the voters do not decide in favor of a person, but in favor of the state list of a party. On this list are the candidates that a party for the state would like to send to Berlin.

It depends on the order of the candidates on the list, because the parties send their candidates to Berlin in proportion to their second votes. Those who are at the top are more likely to get there.

The following then applies to the allocation of seats in the Bundestag: First, the seats are allocated to the direct candidates of a party. Then the candidates follow from the state lists.

Put simply, half of the members of the Bundestag have the first vote. The total number of seats that a party receives in the Bundestag, on the other hand, is determined by the second votes won.

• Script: Astrid Reinberger

• Editors: Stefan Lampe, Stephan Trinius

• Animation: Melih Bilgil

• Production: 08.2009

• Playing time: 00:03:29

• ed. by: Federal Agency for Civic Education

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