Voting in Switzerland

Understand what you can expect of the voting system in Switzerland...

Switzerland operates a direct democracy and as such, has a full calendar of elections and popular votes. Four days (usually Sundays) are designated annually as voting days for federal, cantonal and communal elections.

Referendums are required before there can be any change in the constitution; a referendum can be requested for a change to a law.

Foreigners Voting in Switzerland

Foreign citizens of the cantons of Zürich, Zug and Lucerne do not have the right to vote in communal, local elections. For citizens of Berne, the situation is under review at the present time.

Foreigners living in the cantons of Geneva, Appenzell Ausserrhoden, Freiburg. Graubuenden, Waadt, Jura, Basel–Stadt and Neuenburg may vote in communal, local elections if all the following apply:

  • They are 18 years and older
  • They live legally – and are registered as residing – in Switzerland
  • They have lived legally in Switzerland for a minimum of eight years

Note: Diplomats and foreign diplomatic representatives are not eligible to vote. Foreign civil servants are only eligible to vote on request and with the agreement of their employer.

No foreigner has the right to stand for election.

Registering and voting

This right to vote allows a person to:

  • Elect city council members
  • Vote in local referenda and "popular votes"

Registration is automatic and a voting card and "how to" booklet will be sent by post up to two weeks before an election.

If a qualifying person has not received a voting card by one week before the election then contact "Suisse et Attestations" section of the Cantonal offices.

Changes in status or of address must be reported to the OCP.

Voting can be done online, by post or in person.