To be a member of the German Bundestag once, sent by the sovereign to the workbench of power: entire political lives have been geared towards this noble goal. Angela Hohmann, 60, never had this goal: a member of the Bundestag. She was aware that she could still become one. But Hohmann kept saying to himself: It’s not going to happen. Well, this is Berlin, the capital makes it possible. It could happen today.

It will be re-elected. The circumstances are unusual, like so many things about this federal election. Yes, really: This Sunday around 550,000 Berliners are called upon to cast their two votes for the Bundestag. The capital is partly catching up on what only partially worked in the regular election in 2021.

This offers Angela Hohmann an opportunity that she missed back then. Depending on the outcome, the woman from Lower Saxony, previously the SPD parliamentary group leader in the Celle district council, could still come to the Bundestag. In the middle of the legislative period, a unique opportunity. But not for Hohmann.

“I actually don’t want to be in the Bundestag,” she says. Of course she hopes for another mandate for Lower Saxony. The problem: another comrade would lose hers because of it. “I’m conflicted about it.”

Redialling has many strange consequences, Hohmann’s dilemma being one of them. A ruling by the Federal Constitutional Court has reshuffled the cards. Because there was a lot missing on election Sunday two and a half years ago, apart from significant disruptions to operations, some Berliners now have to do it again.

Back then, on September 26, 2021, a lot came together in the capital. Federal election. House of Representatives election. District elections. A referendum. All in one day. Oh, there was also a marathon – and Berlin was at its limit. Ballot papers were missing in numerous polling stations, supplies did not reach the paralyzed city in time, in some places people waited in line until well after 6 p.m. and did not vote until the first forecasts were already available. Everything is pretty chaotic.

And in the eyes of the Karlsruhe judges: not permitted. The federal election will now be repeated in 455 districts, where there was particularly great chaos. It almost seems as if Berliners don’t want to forget how elections take place: the repeat of the House of Representatives election took place almost exactly a year ago to the day.

Now every fifth eligible voter in Berlin can go to the ballot box again. This will not change the composition of the Bundestag. Calculated across the entire federal government, there are too few votes. But there are still enough to end one or two MPs’ careers prematurely. The Green Party state chairwoman Nina Stahr could lose her mandate, as could General Secretary Ottilie Klein from the Berlin CDU.

And so back to SPD politician Angela Hohmann, who could now be at the beginning of her parliamentary career. That’s not what she set out to do, and her CV shows that. The trained social insurance clerk has been involved in local politics since 2002, whether in the local association or district council, but always with a socio-political focus. Last December, she was recommended by the SPD district of Hanover for a position on the federal executive board, on the grounds that it was important that a person with local political experience sat there. Hohmann was elected and stated that her self-declared goal was to be a “voice for volunteerism and local politics.”

It’s clear: Berlin is further away from the people, or at least not that close anymore. But in large-scale politics, Hohmann’s voice would have more weight. No reason to be happy? “Not really,” she replies. “I don’t think the situation is good for them.” This refers to comrade Ana-Maria Trăsnea, 29, who now has to worry about her seat in the Bundestag.

Because the electoral districts were annulled, the SPD lost a mandate. Previously it belonged to Ana-Maria Trăsnea from the Berlin regional association. Whether she can win it back or the seat goes to Hohmann from Lower Saxony depends on every vote. In the event of an electoral defeat, the SPD could also lose its Bundestag mandate completely. A little election crime thriller – and a pretty complicated one at that.

To put it simply, the absolute number of second votes decides which regional association gets the vote. For Trăsnea (Berlin) and Hohmann (Lower Saxony), it is crucial which vote corridor the SPD ends up in. Because the Bundestag is larger than the regular 598 seats, the second votes now only decide on the distribution of compensatory mandates. That’s why the corridors in question can be quantified quite precisely.

Already confused? These are just the basics.

In the 2021 federal election, the SPD received a total of 94,444 votes in the districts that now have to vote again. If the SPD receives between 37,000 and 48,000 votes this time, roughly rounded, the mandate would go to Lower Saxony. So to Hohmann, who is the first successor on her state list. If the SPD gets more than 48,000 votes, the seat claim goes back to the Berlin state list: Trăsnea would have her mandate back.

Not complicated enough yet? No problem.

In the unlikely event that the SPD defies the current polls, makes strong gains and wins between 95,000 and 106,000 votes, it would be Hohmann from Lower Saxony again. Then Trăsnea would practically have no chance. Why? Attention, no joke: If the SPD records a spectacular increase in votes and the votes grow to more than 106,000, then it would be the Berliners’ turn again. But it would not be Trăsnea who would benefit, but rather her colleague Torsten Einstmann.

Yes, it’s really complicated.

“Personally, I keep my fingers crossed for Ms. Trăsnea that she can keep her Bundestag mandate,” says Hohmann. She doesn’t know the comrade from Berlin and hasn’t spoken to her either. “Still, I’m sorry,” says Hohmann. Trăsnea spent two years learning the ropes.

Hohmann could see the scenario coming, albeit gradually. As a result of several personnel changes in the Berlin parliamentary group, the state list in Lower Saxony has become increasingly widespread, explains Hohmann, and her place on the list has also moved closer and closer. But it was only the ruling of the Constitutional Court that ensured that she had to seriously consider the possibility of the mandate.

It’s just one of many peculiarities that Berlin’s election Sunday has to offer. A selection without any claim to completeness: Anyone who has just turned 18 is allowed to vote – even if he or she was not yet eligible to vote in 2021. However, anyone who has since moved away from Berlin but still voted back then (and is now invalid) is not allowed to vote.

The ballot papers also seem strange. Because unlike those entitled to vote, the people eligible to vote must be the same as in 2021. This can mean, for example: Anyone who has since left a party will still stand for it again, as shown on the ballot paper. Or, a very extreme example: In fifth place on the AfD state list is a woman who is now in custody on suspicion of terrorism.

All of this is causing Berliners to shake their heads. A low voter turnout is expected. Nevertheless: An election is an election, and the first in this super election. It is likely to be an initial, albeit small, mood test for federal politics – with consequences for the Chancellor and his traffic light coalition.

SPD politician Hohmann from Lower Saxony will follow the election closely. Despite her personal dilemma, she says she would “definitely” accept the mandate. She has this responsibility towards her SPD regional association, but also towards the people of the Federal Republic. A Bundestag mandate is also an obligation, says Hohmann. “I’m ready to take on this responsibility too.”

Whether she wants to or not.