Democracy's Little Helpers in North Rhine Westphalia: How Local Authorities in Germany's Most Populous State Organise the Electoral Count and Why it Matters
15 Pages Posted: 22 Aug 2017
Date Written: August 21, 2017
The organisation of the electoral counting process is a complex task that, in Germany, is delegated to local authorities. This paper presents novel data from a representative survey of local communities to describe the variation on the organisational process across communities and to explain its variation with a variety of factors. Then, the data are linked with electoral outcomes, namely the proportion of invalid votes. The data stem from North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany’s most populous state that covers a variety of different social, economic and political contexts. The major findings are: (1) local communities differ greatly in the ways they recruit poll workers for election day and how the counting teams are composed overall, (2) the main lines of division run between rural and urban as well as prosperous and deprived local communities, (3) the inclusion of parties in the recruitment of poll workers, the only main prescription according to the legal framework, is only heeded by two thirds of all communities that tend to more prosperous. (4) Most importantly, actual election results, namely the proportion of invalid votes, systematically and heavily co-varies with the ways in which local authorities organise the counting process: not asking parties for volunteers and asking active politicians to help and to the extent more public employees represented among the poll workers leads in tendency to more invalid vote counts.
Keywords: Election, North Rhine Westphalia, Local Politics, Poll Workers, Counting
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