Improvements for the German Federal Electoral Law (Bundeswahlgesetz)

[Overhang Seats]

Minimal solution

  1. All regional lists of a party are connected (obligatory)
  2. Distribution of seats to parties according to Webster’s/Sainte Laguë method (alternatively Jefferson/D’Hondt)
  3. Sub-distribution of seats to the parties’ regional lists according to Webster’s/Sainte Laguë
  4. Internal compensation of internal overhang seats
  5. Rewrite §§ 6, 7 BWahlG
  6. Additional: Abolishment of the worthless first vote (constituency vote)

1. All regional lists of a party are connected (obligatory)

At present, all secondary votes (Party votes) of all regional lists of one party are connected and in consequence are treated as one list. Theoretically, a regional list can declare not to be connected and thus be treated in the calculating process as an extra list beneth their connected party list. There is however no (non-manipulative) reason, which justifies this possibility of leaving the connected list.

2. Distribution of seats to the parties according to Webster's/Sainte-Laguë (or alternatively Jefferson/D’Hondt.)

(It should be emphasized, that 4. ist the crucial point)

3. Sub-Distribution of seats to the parties’ regional lists according to Webster’s/Sainte-Laguë

Webster’s/Sainte-Laguë method (Divisor method with standard rounding) is superior to the Hamilton/Hare/Niemeyer’s method (largest remainder).

Hamilton/Hare/Niemeyer’s method is especially unsuitable as a computation method, if ...

Increasing the total number of seats or reducing the number of parties can lead to fewer seats for a party despite the higher number of seats to be distributed (these are the Alabama Paradox and the New Party Paradox). This cannot be justified, if these changes are an direct consequence of a better result (more votes) for this special party, e. g. if another party is pressed under a check clause (e. g. 5 %-threshold).

Webster/Sainte-Laguë's method is undistorted like Hamilton/Hare/Niemeyer's method. There is no advantage or disadvantage for smaller or larger parties (despite Jefferson/D'Hondt's method, which favours larger parties). Webster/Sainte Laguë's method minimizes the quadratic error. It is suitable for the sub-distribution of seats, and can be used for the first distribution to the parties, too.

4. Internal Compensation of internal overhang seats (Mean Point)

Internal Overhang Seats are compensated internally. This can be reached by:

  1. not assigning some overhang constituency seats; or
  2. considering the list's seats of all connected lists of a party.
    That means, list seats are assigned after distribution of the constituency seats, only as long as there are enough party seats. In comparison to the current system, a party's regional list with the lowest claim on the last seat will lose it to the overhang list.

The first case stresses the principle of party internal proportions. The second case, the principle of the personalized election in the constituencies. At present, the the proportions in the parties have a higher priority than the proportions among the parties.

5. Paragraphs §§ 6, 7 BWahlG to be formulated understandably

The interlocked structure of the electoral law, where § 7 tells how to read § 6 is not understandable.

6. Additional: Abolishment of the (almost worthless) first vote (constituency vote)

The first vote (the constituency vote) is an unsuitable way to influence the personnel composition of a parliament. The voter is only replacing a (probably unknown) list candidate with a constituency candidate of the same party. There is no reason, why the non-voters of a party should have the right to influence its personnel composition.
A better influence on the personnel composition is given in open lists systems (e.g. local elections in Bavaria or Lower Saxony), or with the STV (single transferable vote).

von Martin Fehndrich (26/07/2003, last update: 05/09/2003)