How does the right to vote work in a state election in Germany?

Since there are still state elections in Germany this year; here is a brief outline of the electoral law.

In Germany, the right to vote in state (Land) elections is based on the principles of direct, free, equal, and secret voting, similar to federal elections. However, each of the 16 federal states (Länder) in Germany has its own constitution and election laws, so there might be some variations between states.


Here’s a general overview of how the right to vote works in state elections:



Typically, voters must be at least 18 years old on the day of the election, although some states, like Bremen and Lower Saxony, allow 16-year-olds to vote in state elections.

Voters usually need to have lived in the respective state for a specific period (often around three months) before the election day.

Generally, only German citizens can vote in state elections. However, some states allow EU citizens to vote in municipal elections.
People deprived of their voting rights by court order or due to certain legal incapacities cannot vote.

Voting System:

Personalized Proportional Representation:
This system is common in most German state elections. Voters usually have two votes: one for a direct candidate in their constituency (first vote) and another for a party list (second vote). The distribution of seats in the state parliament is mainly determined by the second votes.

Allocation of Seats:
Seats in the state parliament are generally allocated in proportion to the number of second votes each party receives, provided they meet any electoral thresholds in place (commonly 5%).

Electoral Threshold:
Most states in Germany have a 5% threshold, which means that a party must receive at least 5% of the second votes to enter the state parliament. There are exceptions, such as Hamburg, where a party can also gain representation by winning at least one direct mandate.

Duration of Legislative Period:
The legislative period in most German states is five years, but there are exceptions, like Bremen, where it’s four years.

Election Day:
State elections are generally held on Sundays or public holidays.

Voting by Mail:
Just like in federal elections, voters in state elections can choose to vote by mail. They need to apply for a postal voting document, which they can then fill out and send back.

Nomination of Candidates:
Political parties, as well as individual voters, can nominate candidates, though the requirements for non-party-affiliated individuals are often more stringent.

Remember, the specifics of the voting system, eligibility, and other details might vary slightly from one state to another, so it’s essential to check the respective state’s election laws and guidelines for the most accurate and detailed information.

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