Talk:Voting in Switzerland

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I edited this page for language as per a request on cleanup. Excellent article. I cleaned up the English. There were only a few typos and verb tense errors. Is English your first language? If not then bravo! This is very well written. I had some comments:

German is my first language... :-) I also contribute in French, but with a smaller success rate than in English ;-) Proof:
--Keimzelle 11:46, 31 January 2006 (UTC)


"When 30 percent of all adult Swiss citizens cast their votes, actually only some 1.7 million inhabitants of Switzerland care about the referendum."

- I deleted this text because it is NPOV, because it is impossible to verify if Swiss people care about the referendum or not.

Good call, I think. In addition, 30% of all adult Swiss citizens and 1.7 million people seem to be in the same ballpark, so I don't really see the point. Schutz 01:43, 30 January 2006 (UTC)
Well, I thought about the so-called "deciding majority", which isn't the same as the "majority". First, foreigners and minors can't vote. Second, not every citizen which is able to vote actually casts a vote (a voter turnout of 35 to 45 percent is normal). And lastly, only the majority of the remaining people actually decide about the referendum because they form the majority. My intention was to point out that not the people of Switzerland do decide the referendum, but only those who cast their ballots - which is less than 40% than the number of the Swiss inhabitants! In "town hall meetings" (e.g. non-compulsory meetings in villages where citizens form a parliament and decide about things the mayor/executive branch can't decide about) sometimes only 5% of the people who have the right to participate appear...--Keimzelle 11:46, 31 January 2006 (UTC)
Ok, rereading your sentence in light of your comment, I understand better what you mean. However, it is not quite clear what is the "take-home" message of this sentence regarding the "deciding majority". The sentences implies that it is a problem that only 1.7 million of people out of 7 million, but what is the problem ? Should Switzerland allow foreigners to vote ? Minors ? Punish non-voters ? Schutz 20:22, 31 January 2006 (UTC)

Yes, the "only" is not neutral. I have just calculated that in the US the number of people who vote on a federal law is 0.0002 percent of the population. If in Switzerland 60 percent willingly abstain then they are in effect saying that they are content for 40 percent of their fellow-citizens to decide the issue for them. You couldn't claim the same for that 99.9998 percent of Americans who are not given any chance to vote on a federal law. Similar can be said for almost all so-called democratic countries. I am not suggesting this viewpoint be part of the article, only pointing it out to show up the bias in "only 40 percent". - Pepper 00:33, 13 February 2006 (UTC)

Deleted #2[edit]

"Say a parliament has 100 seats, and the constituency contains 8 of those seats. First, the party votes are counted. If the Liberals have gained 43 percent of all party votes in this constituency. 43% of eight seats is 3.44, so the Liberals receive three seats. These three seats are then distributed among the three Liberal candidates who received the most candidate votes."

I deleted this because I don’t think it currently meets Wikipedia standards. It is not encyclopedic to include examples. Maybe if it was re-worded. I am rather new to Wikipedia and if I am in error then please replace it.

These procedures are rather complicated, I think a (well-worded) example would be a nice addition to the article. Schutz 01:43, 30 January 2006 (UTC)
I was referring to the procedure of the "Majorzwahl"; on this topic there is an article in the German wiki. The concept of the Majorzwahl is that you primarily choose a party, and then a person. In the presidential election in the US, you primarily chose the person (e.g., either Bush or Clinton). --Keimzelle 11:46, 31 January 2006 (UTC)
Yes, I understood what you are refering to; this is "élections proportionnelles" in French, same thing. But whatever the language, the system is quite complex, so an example would be good. Schutz 20:22, 31 January 2006 (UTC)
There is a specific term for this form of democracy in English. I will look it up and put into the article Hdstubbs 19:31, 31 January 2006 (UTC)

There is nothing wrong with examples. For example check out the excellent "game theory" entry which is full of them. The English for majorz is majoritarian. Essentially it is brought about by having single member electoratal districts as in most parliaments of the Anglo world (except New Zealand which since 1996 has PR). On the other hand, proportional representation (PR) is created by having multi-member electoral districts. In majoritarian systems a minority vote can give a party the majority in the assembly. (The name is dumb but we are stuck with it - the person who wears most of the blame is Dutch-American political scientist Arend Lijphart who is otherwise a model of clear thinking.) In a PR system, the majority in parliament is formed from the parties (almost invariably more than one) which got a majority of votes. The electorates have to have a minimum of 5 members for this to have a chance to be realised. The (effective) number of members is referred to as the "magnitude" - ie in majoritarian the magnitude is 1; in a PR system it will be 5, 7, or more (an odd number is generally preferred for technical reasons).

Keimzelle is in error: in PR the voter chooses a party. In majoritarian systems (eg the US, UK, Canada, Australia) you choose a person. The effect is that a majoritarian MP represents people and a geographical area, whereas under PR the MP is representing an ideology or interest. - Pepper 00:59, 13 February 2006 (UTC)

The concept of the Majorzwahl is that you primarily choose a party, and then a person. Oh... that was very mindless from me. --Keimzelle 15:58, 13 February 2006 (UTC)


How do the municipalities know the addresses of the their citizens if no one registers? When do they get these addresses? Please clarify.

Registration in the town where you live is compulsory. This is strictly enforced; for example, in many cantons (most ?) cantons, if you rent an apartment, your landlord must send your name to the local registry so that they can check if you come and register. In that sense, the sentence that says there is no voter registration in Switzerland is misleading; there is no voter registration because all citizens (as well as foreigners) are already registered anyway. Schutz 01:31, 30 January 2006 (UTC)
The citizen must register with the municipality in about one or two weeks after they move to a new municipality. I don't know of any region in which the landlord has to register the lodgers.--Keimzelle 11:46, 31 January 2006 (UTC)
This is because you have never lived in Vaud ;-). Note, however, that you are correct (and my comment above too): the landlord does not register the tenant, he just tells the registry to expect your visit, just in case you "forget". Schutz 20:22, 31 January 2006 (UTC)

Clarify #2[edit]

If people are running for parliament, the ballot shows as many lines as there are posts to fill. The following rules apply:

  • Each candidate can appear once or twice on a ballot.
  • A candidate's name can be deleted.
  • One or more candidates from another list can be added to a party list. For example, one can remove a candidate from the Social Democrat list and replace him with one from the Liberals.

This section is confusing. I am not certain to whom the rules apply. Are these rules for the voter to follow? If so how come they can vote for the same candidate twice?

These rules applies to the voter. In some cases, yes, they can vote twice for the same person (within the total of points you can give, which is equal to the number of posts to fill). This person will then receive 2 votes in the final tally. This is quite strange, I agree. At least some cantons (many ? most ?) do not use this rule, but I don't know much about it. Schutz 01:40, 30 January 2006 (UTC)
Some cantons only elect one Senator ("Ständerat") because they are among the so-called "half cantons" (all the other cantons elect two Senators); and so the voter just has to give a single vote to one candidate. The confusing and strange rule mentioned above applies - as far as I know - to all elections where two or more vacancies have to be filled.--Keimzelle 11:46, 31 January 2006 (UTC)
Hum... my feeling is that it did not apply in Geneva, but I'd have to double check. Schutz 20:22, 31 January 2006 (UTC)
I'm really confused with this section (and I bet all other non-Swiss readers are too).
  • First of all, do you use national party lists or regional (cantonal) party lists?
If you vote for the cantonal parliament, the party list isn't the same as for the national parliament. Or since when are the members of the cantonal parliament the same as those of the national parliament?
  • How many names does a voter actually have to write on his/her ballot and does that number vary from canton to canton?
It varies from canton to canton. California in the USA is more populated than, say, Alaska, so California elects more representants to the national parliament.
  • Do you actually have to copy in the ballot the names from each party list, or do you only need e.g. to check the names of the candidates you choose from a given list ? Instead of writing down a given candidate's name, could a number be used instead ?
The party lists are ready-made. You can strike through a the name of a proposed candidate, you can substitute him, or you can list him one or two times on the list. The "free list" has no preprinted names; you have to look at the party lists for the names of the proposed candidates. No - for reasons of clarity one has to write the full name of the candidate.

--Keimzelle 15:50, 20 February 2006 (UTC)

To sort it all out: Here's a party list for a parliament election. It's the list number 02, which belongs to the party with the rather funny name "B". As you see, the first candidate ("Stefan Stellvertreter") is stroke through; so he doesn't get a candidate vote. "Pierre Personne" is a candidate from another party (his number doesn't begin with "02"). He gets a candidate vote. Then candidate number 0208, Amalie Alias is named doubly, so she gets two candidate votes. The last line on the ballot is left empty by this specific voter because he thinks that no other candidate deserves his support. Because the voter casts the ready-made list from party B, so this party gets a party vote. This here is a free list where the voter simply does the same... but he can leave the party affiliation blank so that candidates, but no party get the votes. --Keimzelle 15:50, 20 February 2006 (UTC)

Not sure, but I guess there is a mistake: Using a party ready-made list or using a free list does not make any difference: the people you vote for gets a personal vote, and the party they belong to gets a party vote. The difference lies in uncomplete lists, i.e. lists with less names than seats. In this case, a ready-made list (or a free list where a party name is manually added) will give party votes for all missing names. In a free list, the missing names are lost. Let's try to illustrate: 3 seats available. Albert choose the party A list with 2 names of candidates of party A on it. Party A gets 3 votes (and the 2 candidates each gets a personal vote). Brenda writes the same two names of candidates of party A on a free list: Party A gets 2 votes (and, as before, the 2 candidates each gets a personal vote). Lacavin (talk) 13:31, 16 November 2009 (UTC)

Further improvements[edit]

The article would also be improved if there were a brief explanation of what a canton because non-Swiss people (like myself) probably don’t know what it is (like myself).

Canton=state. I have also modified the link in order to skip the disambiguation page; is it ok as it is or do you think more details should be added ? Schutz 01:34, 30 January 2006 (UTC)
I think it is okay as is, at least for me (I know what a state is and I don't think further clarification is need. Thanks! Hdstubbs 19:32, 31 January 2006 (UTC)

Clarify #3[edit]

This line is confusing: The ballot has only one line where the voter has to place the full name of any mature citizen that lives in the said canton.

Does this mean that there is only one line on the entire ballot or only one line that can have the name of any mature citizen? Please clarify. Hdstubbs 01:23, 30 January 2006 (UTC)

The example cited seems to be a very specific case where a member of an executive branch retires or dies; in this case, there is only one person to elect, and only one line on the ballot. This could probably be extended to cover any election of an executive branch. Schutz 01:37, 30 January 2006 (UTC)
No, if a politician dies or retires, there is no new election. The candidate with the second-highest vote count substitutes him. But if in a regular election a single vacancy has to be filled, the voter can only cast a single vote for a single candidate. If there's an election where no candidates have to register themselves (like the the elections to the State government), every voter can fill in the name of every adult Swiss citizen living in the same state (out of frustration with the better known candidates, I once voted for myself... :-)--Keimzelle 11:46, 31 January 2006 (UTC)
Don't forget that the different cantons can use different systems. Several cantons have the concept of "élections complémentaires" to replace politicians at the Executive. This happened at least in Geneva when Micheline Calmy-Rey got elected to the Federal Council and had to be replaced at the State Council. However, for the Parliament (canton of Geneva and its 45 municipalities), indeed, the next politician in line is elected. If there was none left, then the party (these are "proportional" elections) can pick anyone they want. Schutz 20:22, 31 January 2006 (UTC)

Merge with Switzerland?[edit]

The information in this article would make a great addition to the main Switzerland article. I propose a merge, and would like to hear the input of the editors of this article.

I also suggest merging this article with "Switzerland". Because I still have difficulties writing a good English I don't want to "vandalize" existing articles; so for greater contributions I begin a new article.--Keimzelle 11:46, 31 January 2006 (UTC)
This is an excellent article that only needs some minor copy-editing. I would be willing to begin merging the article. I'd like anyone's opinion on what needs to be trimmed or added (if anything) before the article is merged. Adhall 12:45, 31 January 2006 (UTC)
You guys...the discussion link on the template is to Talk:Switzerland - that is where you should discuss this matter, not here...otherwise we'll have two different groups possibly coming up with two different decisions. ¦ Reisio 19:04, 31 January 2006 (UTC)
I am mostly in favour of the merge, except for one thing: looking at the discussions above, and the fact that Switzerland may have up to 23 (or 26) different voting systems, with some complicated options, I don't know if we can really merge the whole article. Schutz 20:22, 31 January 2006 (UTC)
Keimzelle, don't hesitate about "vandalizing" articles by adding content to them. This kind of "vandalism" is welcome, and if you make mistakes in English, someone will correct them. That's the principle of the Wiki ! Schutz 20:22, 31 January 2006 (UTC)

After reading the articles on Switzerland I think we should merge this artile with Politics of Switzerland instead of with Switzerland. What does everyone think? Hdstubbs 02:51, 1 February 2006 (UTC)

Alright I agree that I've gone a little wiki nuts with the merge tags but after looking at the Swiss politics articles I am think that the best thing to do would be to merge this page with the Elections in Switzerland page and then either link to or merge with the overall Politics of Switzerland page. Hdstubbs 03:15, 1 February 2006 (UTC)

In Switzerland, the term "votation" indicates a question where the Swiss people will have to answer by either "yes" or "no" (e.g. "Do you accept the referendum XYZ?", "Do you accept the modification of the [some date] of the law XYZ", etc.) whereas the term "election" indicates the election of candidates (e.g. for cantonal governments). Considering this, I propose we keep both Voting in Switzerland and Elections in Switzerland and that we only talk about the different types of referendum in the former and about elections in the latter. Does this seem okay with you? Orgyn (talk) 18:55, 24 May 2013 (UTC)

Sounds ok to me. I think you can go ahead and do the change. mgeo talk 16:10, 7 June 2013 (UTC)

Voting Machines[edit]

I took away this subheading because there are no voting machines in is misleading to have a heading about something that doesn't exist. I changed it to polling booths. Hdstubbs 19:25, 31 January 2006 (UTC)

Party Vote[edit]

"If a voter uses a ready-made party list, additionally a party vote is cast for the specific party."

I have more clarifications to ask for.  :) What is a party vote? Is it different from a regular vote? Does it just mean that a voter used the party list or does it give something else to the party?

Also, I went over the whole article again and copy-edited it. I changed some headings and clarified some stuff. Would one of you guys from Switzerland please re-read the article to make certain that I didn't make any mistakes because I know nothing about Swiss voting. I just tried to make what I thought you guys were trying to say more clear.Hdstubbs 19:41, 31 January 2006 (UTC)

Ok, I'll make an example of the candidate vote and party vote concept: Say that the Republicans make up a Republican list consisting of the candidates A, B, C and D; and the Democrats propose the Democratic list of E, F, G and H. If one casts the Republican list, the Republican Party gets a "party vote" and each candidate A, B, C and D gets a candidate vote. If a democratic voter likes to support candidate Republican candidate C, but is afraid of voting for the Republicans, he strikes one of the democratic candidates from the Democratic list - for example E - and replaces him with C. So C, F, G and H get each a candidate vote while the Democratic party gets the party vote because the democratic list - although altered - was cast. (There's also a free list with no party affiliation; one can enter the names of his favored candidates - the free list yields no party votes whatsoever). When counting the votes, the the party votes are counted... and according to the party votes, the seats in the constituency are distributed among the parties. Then, who gets the Democratic seats, who the Republican? For example, when the party votes are tied 50% to 50% and the constituency has 4 seats, the two Democratic candidates and the two Republican candidates with the highest candiate vote number are elected. Is it clearer now?--Keimzelle 00:28, 1 February 2006 (UTC)
Oh, so the party vote is what really determines who wins and loses the election and the candidate votes are just the tie-breakers. Is that correct? Hdstubbs 01:06, 1 February 2006 (UTC)
There is no tie-breaking mechanism. The party vote decides which party wins the election, and according to the party votes, the seats are allocated to the parties. Then, the candidate vote decides which candidates actually gets the seat. For example, if the Socialists were allocated 5 seats, the five socialists with the highest candidate vote counts are elected. Don't get confused by the fact that the voter casts both the candidate votes and the party votes with the same ballot! -- 10:15, 1 February 2006 (UTC) typo corrected and correctly signed by --Keimzelle 11:07, 1 February 2006 (UTC)
As mentioned above, I think there is a misunderstanding, but it could be a cantonal difference. To recycle your example, C, F, G, H get personal votes, the democrats 3 party-votes and the republicans 1 party-vote. This is what you would expect, no need for "party votes" there. It becomes interesting when instead of voting C, F, G, H, I decided that I am democrat but I know personally only a republican. So I can vote ONLY C and specify "Democrat" as party. In this case I give only to C a personal vote and I give with this 1 party-vote to the republican. But I also give 3 party-votes to the democrats, without specifying any candidate (I trust other party supporters to select the best people). So the party-votes come into play only for incomplete ballots. Why is this? because (mostly at local level), it is frequent to have to elect 80-100 people, and no party has that many candidates. So you use the list label (party) to select globally which political party should represent you, and then add names from any list (mostly to support individuals that are, or not, from the party you support). Lacavin (talk) 13:37, 16 November 2009 (UTC)

Referenda v. Referendums[edit]

Any thoughts? Are both correct? Hdstubbs 03:05, 1 February 2006 (UTC)

According to Referendum, yes. Adhall 06:36, 1 February 2006 (UTC)

Merge with Elections in Switzerland[edit]

I am retracting my original suggestion that this article be merged into the Switzerland article, and voting that we incorporate the content of this article and that of Elections in Switzerland under the title Elections in Switzerland. I have begun a discussion at Talk:Elections in Switzerland (per Reisio's reminder) -- please post your comments there. Adhall 06:34, 1 February 2006 (UTC) I agree and have taken down the merge with Politics of Switzerland tag. Hdstubbs 18:29, 1 February 2006 (UTC)

Reaction: I don't think that it's a good odea to merge the article with "elections in Switzerland" since most of the votes held in the country are precisely NOT elections, but initiatives and referendums (Caïus Gracchus) — Preceding unsigned comment added by Caïus Gracchus (talkcontribs) 15:43, 5 November 2014 (UTC)


This is in contrast to Germany, which does not know neither candidate votes or editing of party lists - if a German candidate can manage to get the first line on the party list, his election is guaranteed - except his party doesn't get any seat in the party vote. In Germany, influential or senior politicians usually get the upper lines on the party lists.

I deleted this because it seemed to be more about Germany than about Switzerland Hdstubbs 20:24, 1 February 2006 (UTC)

Ok, keep it out... --Keimzelle 21:00, 1 February 2006 (UTC)

Polling Booths[edit]

All the information under polling booths was about how the votes are counted and not about the Polling Booths. Does anyone have any information about what happens in a polling booths? Hdstubbs 02:30, 2 February 2006 (UTC)

Private grooming
In the times of postal voting, hardly one visits a polling station :-) In the town where I live (5000 inhabitants) there were only some 20 or 30 people visiting the polling station on Saturday evening before the vote counting. If you don't want do fill out our ballot at home, you can visit the polling station and fill it out there & cast the vote. Note that every voter already got his ballots by mail, so he has to bring them along. The envelope in which the ballots and voting brochures are sent is also the certificate which says that you are able to vote. Errr, what happens in the voting booth? You just drop the ballot in the ballot box... or did I miss your point? --Keimzelle 09:41, 2 February 2006 (UTC)
No, you did not. But I think that this of interest to our article. The article is quite indepth about how to vote via mail-in ballots but contains little information about the polling booth. I was just curious. Hdstubbs 19:15, 2 February 2006 (UTC)

Uniqueness of paper ballots[edit]

The statement that Swiss elections are unique because they do not use voting machines, but use all paper voting is incorrect. This is certainly the case in Great Britain and I suspect (don't know for sure, however) in many other democracies (e.g. much of Europe, India, etc.). I will therefore remove it, however I'm not sure whether it would be best to remove the uniqueness or the paper voting (since the latter is mentioned later in the article). I went with my instinct and rewrote this paragraph removing the reference to uniqueness, but if you feel this is inappropriate, please feel free to revise, possibly removing the reference to paper ballots completely, since other means of voting are referred to later in the article. I've also done some minor tidying up, but nothing comprehensive (occured to me half way through, that I'm probably wasting my time if this article is to be merged with "elections in Switzerland", which BTW, seems an eminently sensible idea). Brianpie 16:06, 20 April 2006 (UTC)

You're right, perhaps I had the USA in mind when writing the main bulk of this article. But a rather unique thing is that Switzerland consists mainly of villages (under 10000 inhabitants), and in those the votes are counted manually by randomly selected citizens. Greets, --Keimzelle 09:01, 20 April 2006 (UTC)

The introduction still appears to state that Paper Ballots are unique, as it has the phrase "In addtion," before the sentence which presents it, connecting it to the "unique" statement before. I think the whole sentence would be better removed, as the details are further on in the article, and there is no uniqueness or surprise that would make me expect to see Paper Ballots as a headline point in the introduction. (talk) 19:35, 20 November 2011 (UTC)


"Only 25% to 45% of all mature citizens typically cast their votes, but controversial proposals (such as EU membership or abolishing the army) have seen voter turnouts of about 60%."

Does "mature" citizens mean, all those able to vote? I think it should read

"Only 25% to 45% of those eligible typically cast their votes,...etc"

"mature citizens" is a bit of a confusing term. It would usually mean old people, or people above middle-age, no-one 18 would be called mature in English. I understand this might be because English is not the first language of most of the contributors! 19:51, 13 August 2006 (UTC) Greenaum

Swiss citizens having an age of 18 years or more are allowed to vote. This is meant by "mature". Yes, "mature" also remembers me of "mature cheese", "mature wine" and so on; so I'll change that :-) --Keimzelle 14:57, 14 August 2006 (UTC)


i think you have forgot to put in this article in the themes of the posibility for making a initiative (with 100'000 signatures)... Mäderm 13:37, 10 june 2007 (UTC)