Nuts and Bolts of Voting in Germany
The logistics of voting in Germany are rather straightforward, and most citizens here take their right to vote seriously. The process starts when the election notices arrive in the post to all eligible voters. Those citizens then go to the polls, which in Germany are held conveniently on Sundays. Typically held at one’s nearest local school, elections are generally organised affairs, in which each voter’s name can be easily found in the voting official’s records at the polling station.
No one else is allowed in the voting booth with you, which makes certain that your vote is yours alone. For the Bundestag, which is the elected house of the German parliament, you get two votes. The first vote goes directly to the local politician running for a seat in the parliament, while the second vote goes to the party of your choice. It is entirely possible, as well as legal, to vote for a candidate from one party with your first vote, and then vote for an entirely different party with your second vote.
A number of years ago, there was a bit of a scandal when the FDP party, which has a long history in German post-war politics, was in danger of falling below the necessary 5% to keep seats in the German parliament. Political pundits surmise that people who might normally give both of their votes to the CSU might actually use their second vote to help save the FDP.
Once the ballot has been filled out, which consists of making a cross for the candidate or party you support, it goes in a large secure box at the voting site. Only after the voting is complete do the election officials begin to count the votes. Partially due to allegations of potential election fraud in other parts of the world where voting machines are used, many Germans prefer the paper ballots that can be reliably and transparently counted.