Electoral Law: After 1848 Austria applied suffrage based on ownership of property. Until 1873 the members of the Abgeordnetenhaus were indirectly elected through the provincial diets, then directly according to the majority rule. The members of the 4 curiae had to pay taxes of at least 10 florins, under Prime Minister E. Taaffe, this limit was reduced to 5 florins in 1882. Count Badeni´s electoral reform of 1896 created a more general class of voters, which in turn led to the representation of the Social-Democrats in the "Abgeordnetenhaus". In 1907 universal suffrage was introduced for men, in 1919 for women. The Federal Constitution Act of 1920 provided for the transition to proportional representation. The regulations pertaining to elections to the Nationalrat (National Council) were reformed in 1929, 1949, 1970 and 1992. Since May 1, 1993 National Council elections have been governed by the Nationalratswahlordnung 1992 (Federal Law Gazette 417 of July 10, 1992).
All Austrian citizens, provided they are not excluded from the right to stand for election (one-year prison sentence) and have reached 19 years of age before January 1 of the election year, are eligible for election. All Austrian citizens who have reached 18 years of age before January 1 of the election year and have not been disenfranchised have the right to vote. All persons entitled to vote have to be registered in their main place of residence in a voters´ register maintained by the municipalities (since 1973).
In general, most persons entitled to vote go to the polls at the place where they are entered in the voters´ register (those who wish to cast their vote at some other polling station have to obtain a "polling card" from the competent authority). The election date has to be made public by the federal government in the Federal Law Gazette.
Voting is done by secret ballot, in person and by using the official ballot, which has to list the parties and their proposed representatives and allow sufficient space for preference votes. For the purpose of elections the Republic of Austria is divided into 9 provincial constituencies which correspond to the 9 federal provinces. The provincial constituencies are divided into 43 regional constituencies (Burgenland and Vorarlberg 2 each, Salzburg 3, Carinthia 4, Upper Austria and Tirol 5 each, Lower Austria and Vienna 7 each, Styria 8). The number of citizens whose principal residence according to the latest census is in Austria and the number of those citizens who live abroad and are registered in the electoral register are added up and the total is divided by 183 (= the total number of seats in Parliament). Each provincial constituency receives as many seats as corresponds to the percentage of citizens who have their principal place of residence in that particular provincial constituency. These seats are then assigned in the same proportion to the regional constituencies.
Elections are organised by the electoral authorities. Every municipality, except Vienna, appoints its municipal election authority. It is responsible for determining polling stations and election time, the on-site supervision of the election and the counting of the votes. Larger municipalities may be divided into electoral districts. In addition, district electoral authorities are set up in each political district, in all chartered cities and towns, and in each of the district offices in Vienna, while each province has a provincial electoral authority and the Federal Ministry of the Interior accommodates the Federal electoral authority. The counted votes (including preference votes) have to be passed on by the municipalities via the districts to the provincial electoral authorities from where they are passed on to the federal electoral authority. There the number of seats won by the various parties is determined.
In the first allocation round every party receives a number of seats equalling the total number of votes they received in the regional constituency divided by the electoral quotient. In the second allocation round only those parties participate which have received a seat in at least one regional constituency in the first allocation round or that have won at least 4% of all valid votes cast in Austria. In the second round each party receives a number of seats equalling the total number of votes they have received in the provincial constituency divided by the electoral quotient, minus the seats received in the first round. Parties that have introduced a federal nomination paper, participate in the third allocation round, in which the remaining seats, minus those allocated in the 1st and 2nd rounds, are distributed. The final result is determined only after the allocation of the polling card votes.
The Federal President is also elected by the general electorate and through electoral authorities in accordance with the regulations pertaining to elections to the Nationalrat. Some federal provinces have introduced a legal obligation to vote. The provincial diets are elected by those citizens who have their principal residence in that province. The members of municipal councils are elected by those Austrian and EU citizens who have their principal residence in that municipality. In some federal provinces the owners of second homes are also entitled to vote.
Literature: H. Neisser, M. Handstanger, R. Schick, Das Bundeswahlrecht, 21994; H. Fischer, M. Berger, R. Stein, Nationalratswahlordnung 1992, 1993.
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