In addition to many other serious shortcomings, it has long been known that Berlin citizens could not take part in the federal elections, even though they were entitled to vote. At the same time, minors could vote even though they were not entitled to vote. Despite the first objection by Federal Returning Officer Georg Thiel against a Bundestag election, which she now wants to repeat in half of Berlin, the processing is slow.
Only on Monday – eight months have passed since the election – did a public hearing of the Election Review Committee take place in the Bundestag. What was heard there from Thiel and from the Berlin state election authority should make even hard-working Botox users frown on their foreheads.
In short, many electoral boards, i.e. the “daily bosses” of the 2257 polling stations, still lack information about the “special events” in their locality. To date, many have not responded to questions from the Berlin election officials about allegations and mistakes.
And so far, neither the Federal Returning Officer nor the Berlin State Returning Officer or anyone else has the authority to urge those who are unwilling to testify to provide information about the course of the election in their restaurant. At least this legal situation, which would also make it more difficult to deal with future scandalous elections, should be changed as a matter of urgency.
Otherwise, after an election that got out of hand, a picture could soon emerge as on Monday in the election examination committee: Thiel, who as head of the Federal Statistical Office is actually a reserved official, warned the committee urgently against trivializing the processes.
The “preparation and implementation were flawed,” summarizes Thiel. However, he asked the MPs “to excuse me for not being able to give you any clearer facts, but the Federal Returning Officer has no means of clarifying things.” I can only collect what is provided to me from media research”. The records of the electoral boards in the individual bars are the decisive sources for clarifying the events. But “the documentation is completely inadequate, it is so bad that we are in this situation today. That can not be.”
In the interaction between the federal and the state returning officers, it quickly became clear during the processing that “the incoming documentation is very incomplete”. Nevertheless, he waited a very long time to lodge an objection, because “this is the first time in the history of the Federal Republic,” Thiel remarked, “as a federal returning officer, you think about it very carefully.”
Ulrike Rockmann, who as deputy Berlin election officer is responsible for processing after the resignation of her boss – to date there is no successor – was not very shocked. She explained that she had asked the district returning officers to document everything that had happened. That was then “more or less extensively made available to her”.
However, the following applies: “I can only work with the material that I am provided with.” Rockmann said that she could imagine that electoral boards who were “already under stress” were “not so detailed” in their documentation. be. If there were indications of errors in the polling station, the state returning authority asked the districts to talk to the relevant election boards, but “not everyone reported.”
One member of parliament asked how many had not reported. Rockmann, who is full-time responsible for processing the election defects, said: “I can’t tell you. You should raise that again.” The deputy asked whether there were many or few. “It felt like we mostly got answers,” said Rockmann, “I would say the majority got in touch.”
A district returning officer then took pity on the embarrassing situation and explained to the election examination committee: In his district, around two-thirds of the polling officers asked had contacted them, but “one could not force any answers from the electoral boards”.
The Federal Returning Officer, who was visibly shocked by the great understanding of the sloppiness of many electoral boards, resorted to the Electoral Code and read out that a District Returning Officer must “check all records for completeness and correctness”. It could “probably not be true” that in Berlin many electoral boards do not hand in their minutes at all or only incompletely, although this is not a problem across the rest of the country.
Unfortunately it is true and there is no good reason to assume that this will not happen again in the future.