Bundestag election 2021

Identifying and combating disinformation

Disinformation is demonstrably false or misleading information spread to influence or deceive the public. There is no central agency tasked with identifying and correcting disinformation in Germany.

The Federal Returning Officer is responsible for identifying and combating disinformation where such information concerns his area of responsibility or the election procedure. The respective providers are responsible for the content of their social networks. The media authorities of the Länder have a supervisory function.

Disinformation in social media channels

In the context of the Bundestag election, false information (also called fake news) intended to misinform voters is doing the rounds in social media and chat groups. Such information is often passed on as recipients do not realise that it is fake news. Therefore, the following fake news of which the Federal Returning Officer knows are taken up and corrected.

Fake news often shared in social media channels
False information What is correct

Only the ballot-box poll in the polling station could be observed. Therefore, without election observers present, the counting of postal votes could be manipulated.

The postal ballot result is determined in public. Everyone has the right to attend the process as an election observer. That right is laid down in law (Section 75 (8) in conjunction with Section 54 of the Federal Electoral Regulations (BWO)). The venues and times of postal ballot board meetings are made public in time by the bodies responsible in the relevant publication media at municipal level (Section 7 no. 5 of the Federal Electoral Regulations (BWO)).

Ballot boxes were not safe. Sealed ballot boxes could be pried open at the back without damaging the seal and without the illegal opening of the box being noticed.

Ballot boxes used for the reception of ballot papers must ensure the preservation of the secrecy of the ballot (Section 33 (1), second sentence, of the Federal Elections Act (BWG)). To this end, ballot boxes must be lockable. There is no additional requirement to affix seals to ballot boxes.

The ballot box is protected at all times from third-party access and unauthorised opening: before the poll begins on election day, the electoral board sees for itself that the ballot box is empty. Then the electoral officer locks the ballot box. It must not be opened again until the poll is closed (Section 53 (3) of the Federal Electoral Regulations (BWO)). This is ensured by poll workers and the public being present in the polling station at any time.

First-time voters could win a prize in the Bundestag elections by writing their name on the ballot paper.

There is no prize to win when voting in the Bundestag elections. If a reference to the voter (such as the name) is taken down on the ballot paper, the latter will become invalid to protect the secrecy of the ballot (Section 39 (1), first sentence, no. 5 of the Federal Elections Act (BWG)).

Facts on how the election is protected against cyber attacks

The Federal Office for Information Security (BSI), the Land returning officers and the Federal Returning Officer have determined requirements for securing the transmission of provisional results. The requirements are to ensure a permanently high, state-of-the-art security level for the transmission of the provisional results on election night. In keeping with the decision of the Federal Constitutional Court of 2009, voting machines will not be used in Bundestag and European Parliament elections. Votes are only cast on paper. Polling does not depend on IT security and is therefore not susceptible to manipulation.

Illustration: Establishment of Bundestag election results

Facts regarding the security of the postal ballot

Voters may vote in the polling stations or by post in the Bundestag election. The legislators have taken precautions which rule out manipulation of the entire election result through the abuse of postal voting.

The voting behaviour of those voting in person at the polling station often differs from that of postal voters. This carries no implication of any manipulation. There are various reasons why postal voters may vote differently to their counterparts in polling stations (for example because the supporters of a particular political party have a preference for a specific form of voting).

Illustration: Voting by post and secrecy of the ballot