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Electoral Law for the Reichstag of the North German Confederation (May 31, 1869)

After excluding Austria from Germany in 1866, Prussia achieved virtual hegemony over the North German Confederation. By the end of 1867 Germans had already trouped to the polls twice to elect members to the North German Reichstag. A flood of legislation soon followed, beginning with a new constitution and followed by many liberal reforms. Yet a formal electoral law was not passed until May 31, 1869. This suffrage was described in shorthand as “universal,” though it explicitly excluded women of all ages and men under 25. It was also described – with varying degrees of accuracy – as equal, direct, and secret. The law fixed the number of seats in the Reichstag in proportion to the member states’ populations, but it did not provide for the reapportionment of constituencies as the result of population shifts. The provisions of this law were extended to the German Empire in 1871, and they remained in effect until 1918.

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§ 1. An eligible voter for the Reichstag of the North German Confederation is any North German of at least twenty-five years of age. Such person is eligible to vote in the federal state where he resides.

§ 2. For enlisted men in the army or navy, eligibility to vote is suspended for as long as they are in active service.

§ 3. The following persons are excluded from the right to vote:

1) Persons under legal guardianship;

2) Persons against whose property insolvency or bankruptcy proceedings have been initiated;

3) Persons who receive poor relief from public or municipal funds or have received such
relief during the year preceding the election;

4) Persons whose full citizenship rights have been revoked according to due process of
law, for the time of revocation, provided these rights have not been reinstated.

If the full enjoyment of civil rights was revoked because of political offenses or crimes, the
right to vote is reinstated as soon as the sentence has been carried out or remitted through a pardon.

§ 4. Any North German of at least twenty-five years of age who has lived in any state within the Confederation for at least one year is eligible for election as deputy in the entire territory of the Confederation, provided he is not excluded from the right to vote by the stipulations of §3.

§ 5. In each state, one deputy is elected for every 100,000 persons, based on the number of inhabitants on which the elections of the constitutive Reichstag was based. Any surplus of at least 50,000 persons is rounded up to a full 100,000 persons. One deputy is elected in any state whose population does not reach 100,000 persons.

Accordingly, the total number of deputies is 297. Prussia receives 235, Saxony 23, Hessen 3, Mecklenburg-Schwerin 6, Saxony-Weimar 3, Mecklenburg-Strelitz 1, Oldenburg 3, Braunschweig 3, Saxony-Meiningen 2, Saxony-Altenburg 1, Saxony-Coburg-Gotha 2, Anhalt 2, Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt 1, Schwarzburg-Sonderhausen 1, Waldeck 1, Reuß older line 1, Reuß younger line 1, Schaumburg-Lippe 1, Lippe 1, Lauenburg 1, Lübeck 1, Bremen 1, Hamburg 3.

Any increase in the number of deputies due to population growth is determined by the law.

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