The German Parliament, also known as the Bundestag, is the legislative branch in germany. The 736 members (in 2023) of the Bundestag are elected every four years using a mixed-member proportional representation system.
So you want to send emails or do a twitterstorm targeting the Germans Parliament? you’d think it’s a matter of asking your supporters for their postal code, find which one of the 736 electoral constituency they belong do, and then their representative?
The first complication is “mixed-members proportional”. Under this system, German voters cast two votes: one for a candidate in their constituency and one for a political party. The constituency vote, also known as the first vote, is a simple plurality vote. The candidate who receives the most votes in their constituency wins the seat in the Bundestag. There are a total of 299 constituencies in Germany, and each constituency elects one representative to the Bundestag.
Ok, so we have about half of the MPs covered (299 out of 736).
The party vote, also known as the second vote, is more complex. Voters choose a political party rather than an individual candidate. The total number of second votes each party receives determines how many seats they will have in the Bundestag. Half of the seats in the Bundestag are filled by members elected through the first vote, and the other half are filled by members elected through the party vote. This ensures that the Bundestag reflects both the will of the people at the constituency level and the overall preferences of the electorate at the national level.
To determine how many seats each party receives in the Bundestag, a formula is used called the Sainte-Laguë method. This method involves dividing the total number of second votes each party receives by a series of odd numbers (1, 3, 5, etc.). The party with the highest result after the first division is awarded the first seat, and the process continues until all of the seats have been filled. This method ensures that smaller parties have a chance to be represented in the Bundestag, while still maintaining a proportional representation of the larger parties.
Once the seats have been allocated, each party selects their representatives based on a list of candidates submitted prior to the election. The first candidates on the list are given priority, but the party can choose to fill seats with candidates further down the list if they are unable to fill them with the top candidates. This ensures that the party can choose representatives who best reflect their political platform and priorities.
Ok, so what do we do with these extra MPs? they are technically not elected based on where they were candidates, but in practice, we chose to assign them to the constituency where they were candidates, so they are -roughly- contacted as much as the MPs that were directly elected.
The Bundestag has a minimum size of 598 members, but this number can increase if there are additional seats due to overhang mandates. Overhang mandates occur when a party wins more constituency seats than it is entitled to based on the number of second votes it received. To maintain proportional representation, additional seats are added to the Bundestag to ensure that all parties are properly represented. In the most recent federal election in 2021, there were 138 seats extra seats in the Bundestag due to overhang mandates.
Ok, so what do we do with these extra MPs? they are technically not elected based on where they were candidates, but in practice, we chose to assign them to the constituency where they were candidates, so they are -roughly- contacted as much as the MPs that were directly elected. But then you have another problem to solve, as, for some reasons, the list of MPs we could find doesn’t contain the constituency of all the overhang MPs.
Overall, the German electoral system is designed to ensure that the Bundestag reflects the will of the people at both the constituency and national levels. The mixed-member proportional representation system provides a fair and balanced representation of the electorate, while the Sainte-Laguë method ensures that smaller parties have a chance to be represented in the Bundestag.
And it also ensures it’s really hard to set up a campaign properly.
Ok, so now we have the list of MPs mapped with their constituencies. we just need to know for each postcode what is its constituency, right? Finding the constituencies in Germany based on a postcode can be a challenging task for several reasons.
Firstly, each constituency is made up of several postal code areas, which can make it difficult to determine which constituency a specific postcode belongs to. For example, a single postcode area may be split between two or more constituencies, or a constituency may cover multiple postcode areas. This means that simply looking at a postcode alone may not provide enough information to determine the correct constituency.
Secondly, the boundaries of constituencies are subject to change over time, often as a result of changes in population or political circumstances. This means that a postcode that belonged to a certain constituency in a previous election may not necessarily belong to the same constituency in the next election. This can make it challenging to keep track of the current boundaries of each constituency and ensure that postal codes are accurately assigned to the correct constituency.
Finally, there is no central database or system that provides a complete and up-to-date mapping of postcodes to constituencies. While there are several websites and resources that attempt to provide this information, they may not always be accurate or complete. In some cases, the information may be outdated or based on incomplete data, which can lead to errors in determining which constituency a postcode belongs to.
Overall, while it is possible to determine the constituency of a postcode in Germany, it can be a challenging task due to the large number of constituencies, the changing boundaries of constituencies, and the lack of a central database or system for mapping postcodes to constituencies. It did require careful research and verification to ensure that the correct constituency is identified for a given postcode.
…But the good news is that all of that has been done, and now we’re ready to power your next campaign in Germany