Does the federal election in Berlin have to be repeated at least in part? The incumbent Berlin state returning officer doesn’t see it that way – unlike experts in the traffic light coalition.

After the numerous mishaps in the Bundestag elections last September, it seems that at least a partial repetition of the vote is becoming more likely in Berlin. Berlin’s acting election officer, Ulrike Rockmann, still thinks this is unnecessary.

The central question remains whether the glitches in last September’s election had an impact on the composition of the Bundestag, she told the German Press Agency. “I stand by my assessment that I do not see the empirical basis for a redial.”

Rockmann had already represented this position at the end of May at a hearing by the Bundestag’s Election Review Committee. According to reports from “Spiegel”, “Tagesspiegel” and RBB on Thursday, the representatives of the traffic light coalition in the committee are pleading for a repetition of the election in around 400 of the around 2,300 polling stations. All twelve Berlin Bundestag constituencies would be affected. Accordingly, the Bundestag administration should develop a corresponding recommendation for a decision.

The right to vote is the central opportunity for citizens to participate, said the SPD chairman in the election examination committee, Johannes Fechner, the “Spiegel”. “Therefore, electoral errors of this magnitude must be corrected by new elections so that all citizens have an equal opportunity to exercise their right to vote and so that their votes get the weight they deserve.”

Voting in the election examination committee will probably not take place until October

As Fechner told the RBB, a fundamental decision has now been made by the traffic light coalition in the federal government. However, the actual vote in the Election Review Committee will probably not take place until October. Then it would have to be voted on in the Bundestag itself. If the plenum also votes for the repeat of the election in Berlin, Fechner says he considers a partial new election in Berlin in spring 2023 to be realistic.

Partial or complete by-elections to the House of Representatives are also possible. The State Constitutional Court must decide on this. It would be conceivable to organize by-elections for the House of Representatives and the Bundestag on two different dates, said Rockmann. «But also in one day. I don’t see a problem with that.” In view of the level of voter turnout, she considers the second variant to be the better one.

How much lead time is necessary for the organization of the elections cannot be said seriously at the moment. The decisive factor is above all the extent to which elections have to be made, said Rockmann. A lot also depends on when the respective decisions were made in both cases – also because different deadlines have to be observed for by-elections to the Bundestag than for those for the House of Representatives.

Numerous breakdowns and organizational problems

The elections for the Bundestag and the Berlin House of Representatives on September 26 were marked by numerous mishaps and organizational problems in the capital. These included incorrect or missing ballots, the temporary closure of polling stations and long queues in front of them, sometimes with waiting times lasting hours. In addition, some polling stations were still open well after 6 p.m.

On Wednesday, a commission of experts set up by the Berlin Senate presented its report on the election chaos and listed numerous deficits. Among other things, this was due to unclear responsibilities, and the complexity of the election day with four ballots in the capital was massively underestimated. In addition to the elections to the Bundestag and the House of Representatives, the district assemblies were also reorganized. There was also a referendum on the expropriation of large housing groups.

Federal Returning Officer Georg Thiel, who criticizes a “complete systematic failure of the electoral organization” in Berlin, has demanded a complete re-election in six of the twelve constituencies – that would be around 1,200 polling stations.

Union for complete re-election

The Union is also calling for a complete new election in six constituencies. In addition, she wants to vote again in 50 selected polling stations in the other six constituencies. The traffic light proposal “is definitely not enough and does not even begin to do justice to the chaos in the elections in Berlin,” said the committee rapporteur for the CDU/CSU, Patrick Schnieder (CDU), of the German Press Agency in Berlin. “We think it is essential that more than 1,200 polling stations are re-elected, while the traffic light wants to be limited to 400.”

The general secretary of the Berlin CDU, Stefan Evers, said on Thursday evening that the city had to “prepare for repeat elections on a large scale”. He accused the Senate of not having made any preparations for it, despite all the warnings. Berlin’s governing mayor Franziska Giffey (SPD) did not want to comment on the entire topic on Friday. “We do not comment on that,” said a spokeswoman for the Senate Chancellery on request.