Difference between first and second vote

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The difference between first and second vote is that If the federal parliament or a state parliament is elected in Germany, then every citizen has the opportunity to cast two votes. The first and the second vote. Both have different meanings in the choice, but neither is less important than the other.

What is the first vote?

With the first vote, every citizen can elect a candidate directly to the federal or state parliament. This means that candidates can stand for election in each of the 299 constituencies in Germany. These are either candidate from a party or non-party candidates. A simple majority of votes in his constituency is sufficient for one of these candidates to move into a state parliament or the Bundestag.

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Difference between First and Second Vote
Difference between First and Second Vote

Who or what do I vote with the first vote?

With the first vote, you choose a candidate from your own constituency. This is to ensure that every region is represented in parliament. In Germany, there are a total of 299 constituencies in which about the same number of voters live. In total, the first vote brings 299 members to the Bundestag. Each party may nominate one candidate. But there are also non-party candidacies. Whoever receives the most votes in their own constituency wins a direct mandate and is thus allowed to move into the Bundestag – regardless of how many second votes their own party was able to unite. He or she gets a seat in parliament even if the party failed to pass the five percent hurdle due to the number of second votes.

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What is the second vote?

The other vote that a voter can cast is the so-called second vote. With this, the voter can give his vote to a party. In other words, after the election, all second votes that were cast in the election will be added up and then evaluated as a percentage. Each party that was able to unite more than 5% of the votes then enters the federal or the respective state parliament. The number of seats it receives is based on the number of votes received.

Incidentally, the two voices are independent of each other. You can therefore easily give the first vote to a candidate from party A and vote for party B with the second vote.

Who or what do I choose with the second vote?

The second vote decides on the majority in parliament. It thus determines how many of the total of at least 598 seats in the Bundestag a party is entitled to. Here, as a voter, unlike the first vote, you do not make a cross for a person, but for the so-called state list of a party. This list contains all candidates who are to move into the Bundestag in Berlin as members of the Bundestag for the respective party and the respective federal state.

The order of the candidates on the list is not random but selected precisely: They are sent to parliament depending on their ratio of second votes. Those who are at the top of the list accordingly have a higher chance of moving into the Bundestag. The more second votes a party receives, the more candidates enter parliament via the list.

A party needs more than 5 percent of the second vote in order to be taken into account in the distribution of the seats in the Bundestag. If at least three people from a party win a direct mandate, they can still get seats in parliament.

In summary: Half of the members of the Bundestag are elected by the first vote. The total number of seats that a party receives in the Bundestag is regulated by the second votes won.

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Another difference between the first and second vote:

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 lives 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 most Important difference is:
  • 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.

Example of a first and second vote

The German Bundestag has 598 members by default (usually there are more due to overhang and equalization mandates). 299 members are direct mandates that are awarded the first vote. The remaining 299 mandates are occupied by the list members of the parties. For example, if Party A had 48% of the vote and Party B 33%, followed by Party C with 19%, these parties would get 144 (A), 99 (B), and 57 (C) seats. This simple example also results in a total of 300 seats. In other words, one of the MPs already has an overhang mandate.

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