The Federal Returning Officer and his responsibilities
The Federal Returning Officer and his deputy are appointed for an indefinite period of time by the Federal Minister of the Interior. In view of the duties pertaining to the post and the technical means available, appointing the President of the Federal Statistical Office Federal Returning Officer has proved to be an advantage.
Elections to the German Bundestag are held in accordance with a specific procedure laid down in the Federal Elections Act and the Federal Electoral Regulations. It includes the preparation of the election, the poll itself, the establishment of the election result and the attainment of Bundestag membership. The entire procedure is supervised and managed by the electoral bodies provided for by the Federal Elections Act. These are no public authorities or agencies of the Federation but bodies of societal self-organisation not bound by instructions.
The electoral bodies entrusted with preparing and conducting Bundestag elections are
- the Federal Returning Officer and the Federal Electoral Committee, which are responsible for the entire electoral area,
- a Land returning officer and a Land electoral committee per Land,
- a constituency returning officer and a constituency electoral committee per constituency,
- an electoral officer and an electoral board per polling district and
- at least one electoral officer and one electoral board per constituency to establish the result of the postal ballot.
Not bound by instructions
Like the other electoral bodies, the Federal Returning Officer is not bound by instructions in performing his tasks but has to observe the relevant legal provisions. He does not have the authority to issue instructions to the other electoral bodies. The principle is that the electoral committees and electoral boards formed from members of the electorate are to manage and control the election themselves in the decisive stages of the election procedure. They are a kind of “self-governing bodies” of the electorate and may therefore be subject only to an electoral scrutiny procedure. The work of the electoral committees is essentially supervised by the general public as all their decisions are taken in public meetings and afterwards announced publicly by the returning officers.
The main responsibilities of the Federal Returning Officer are: