The electoral law and the electoral system
Members are elected by general, equal, direct and secret ballot (Art. 14 BV) for a legislative period of five years by approximately 9.5 million citizens who are eligible to vote.
“General” means that as a matter of principle every citizen is eligible to vote (and eligible to stand for election!). The right to vote is solely restricted by a stipulated age limit which currently lies at 18 years of age. The voters are also equal as regards the number of votes they are allowed to cast (“one person, one vote”). In Bavaria, all eligible voters have two votes. Voters receive a polling card from their municipality. They also have the opportunity to have postal voting documents sent to them, so that they can cast their votes by post. One speaks of a direct ballot because voters can directly elect the candidates standing for election, i.e. there are no electors as intermediaries (compare, for instance, the American presidential elections). And casting a secret ballot in the polling booth ensures that the election can actually take place without any external coercion. These constitutionally guaranteed principles ensure a truly fair and democratic election.
The 180 members of the Bayerischer Landtag are elected by a so-called “improved system of proportional representation”. That is to say: The competing parties or organised groups of voters generally receive as many seats in the Parliament as correspond to their percentage of votes. However, this only applies to those who win at least five percent of the total number of valid votes cast (five percent hurdle). This proportional representation system is “improved” because the voters can in any case use their two votes to elect individuals, not just parties or organised groups of voters.
Constituencies of the election in 2013:
Administrative districts of the election in 2013:
The second vote can be given to a candidate from the lists compiled before the election by the parties or organised groups of voters for the seven electoral districts (= administrative districts).
This electoral procedure offers two advantages: It is fair because the distribution of seats in the Parliament is calculated according to the percentage of votes received by the parties and organised groups of voters. And it is citizen-oriented because both votes can be used to elect individuals, not just lists. This special feature of Bavarian electoral law, which allots two votes to every citizen eligible to vote, can – as after the 2008 state elections – mean that more than 180 members enter the Bavarian State Parliament. The so-called “overhang mandates” are the reason for this.
Overhang mandates (and as a consequence possibly also compensatory mandates (compensatory seats)) emerge if one party or organised group of voters in the electoral district gains more constituency mandates (so-called direct mandates) than the seats (mandates) to which they are entitled according to their total percentage of votes (total of all first and second votes assigned to them in the electoral district). These overhang mandates cannot be taken from the winners in the constituencies.