Election workers are sitting at tables in a small room, sorting blue envelopes and the ballot papers inside: three days after the repeat election in Berlin, votes were counted again on Wednesday. Reason: 466 envelopes from postal voters only arrived on Monday after the vote in the electoral office of the district of Lichtenberg.
Voters had handed them in to the town hall on time, but they initially stayed put due to an error in the internal transport. Now the ballots, which affected five out of six constituencies in the district, were checked, sorted and counted. Because they should still be included in the state election results.
466 additional votes are not many compared to more than 1.5 million votes cast on Sunday. But they are interesting because according to the provisional results of the House of Representatives elections so far, the SPD is only a hair's breadth in second place with 105 votes ahead of the Greens in third place (both 18.4 percent). It was considered unlikely that anything would change - especially since Lichtenberg is not a Green stronghold.
Will the Greens still be the second strongest force?
The question was: Will the Greens still overtake the SPD? Then they could provide the governing mayor in a conceivable new edition of their government alliance with the SPD and the left, which is possible alongside CDU-led coalitions. And the previous head of government Franziska Giffey (SPD) would have to leave the town hall.
This possibility, which was considered unlikely, ensured that the crowd of observers at the public counting of the votes was large. Interested citizens, party supporters and journalists thronged the small counting room and the unadorned corridor in front of it. Helpers were not impressed by this and worked their way calmly and with concentration through the mass of paper.
Various media that were present subsequently reported that, as a result of the count, the SPD was even able to slightly increase its lead over the Greens. So the glitch has no relevant impact on the nationwide second vote result. However, the unofficial result could - as it is called in technical jargon - have mandate relevance. Because it suggests for the first votes in constituency 3 that there could ultimately be a stalemate between the CDU candidate Dennis Haustein and the left candidate Claudia Engelmann.
According to the preliminary election results announced last Monday, the CDU man won the direct mandate with 4218 votes and a full ten votes ahead. Now both could get exactly the same number of votes. If this is confirmed in the overall review of the election results, the lot would decide which of the two would move into the House of Representatives. It is unclear what effects a possible change in the direct mandate would have on overhang and compensation mandates in Parliament.
Official result only on Monday
However, all this is not secured yet. Because the official result of the count in Lichtenberg will not be known until Monday. Then the District Electoral Committee meets to determine the final official result of the elections to the House of Representatives and the District Parliament. Before that, all votes cast are checked again on the basis of the transcripts of all polling stations, as explained by district returning officer Axel Hunger. There can still be changes regardless of the ballot letters that have now been recounted. On February 27th, the state electoral committee meets to determine the official final result for all of Berlin.
The Lichtenberg case also caused some excitement because Berlin had failed to organize the elections in September 2021. Due to serious election glitches, the state constitutional court had declared the election of the House of Representatives and the twelve district parliaments invalid - and ordered a repetition. At that time, long queues in front of polling stations and missing, mixed up or copied ballot papers made headlines nationwide.
According to state returning officer Stephan Bröchler, the repetition last Sunday went largely smoothly. Individual mistakes did happen, but had no effect on the outcome of the election as a whole. That could now be different in the Lichtenberger case. District returning officer Hunger calls the mistake "annoying," but something like that can happen. "It is crucial that we correct the error, as we also correct other errors." This is exactly what the result check is for.