Appenzell Ausserrhoden moves to give expats voting rights

Appenzell Ausserrhoden moves to give expats voting rights

In a vote on February 19, Appenzell Ausserrhoden approved a change to its constitution that would give expats the right to vote in elections and referendums on the cantonal level. The region would make history if the plan is made into law, as it would become the first German-speaking Swiss canton to grant internationals voting rights.

Appenzell Ausserrhoden moves to expand voting rights

According to the revision, holders of Swiss residence permits who have lived in the country for 10 years or more, and are residents of Appenzell Ausserrhoden, would be given the right to vote in the canton's elections and referendums - federal elections would remain off-limits for Appenzell's internationals. The change would also lower the voting age to 16 for both expats and citizens

Currently, internationals can vote at the local level in certain towns in Appenzell, but the change would make the canton the first east of the Röstigraben to allow non-Swiss to vote at cantonal level. The change was vehemently opposed by the Swiss People’s Party (SVP), but ultimately found a majority.

The first reading of the new constitution is expected to conclude on February 20, after which all towns and cities in Appenzell Ausserrhoden are invited to debate and vote on the draft - comments from both Swiss citizens and internationals will be heard. Once a second draft is confirmed, the final text will be sent for a canton-wide referendum. If approved, it will then be made into law.

Lawmakers in Appenzell debate new constitution

Alongside the groundbreaking new legislation, lawmakers made several other edits to the constitution. These included keeping the word “God” in the constitution text and enshrining government funding for local media in the founding document.

Other proposals were not accepted, the most notable being an attempt to appoint Herisau as the “main town” or capital of Appenzell Ausserhoden. The main towns in the canton will remain Herisau and Trogen. An SVP proposal to reduce average energy consumption per year to half the levels seen in 2015 by 2050 also did not garner enough support.

Thumb image credit: Conny Pokorny /

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Jan studied in York and Sheffield in the UK, obtaining a master's in broadcast journalism and a bachelor's in history. He has worked as a radio DJ, TV presenter, and...

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