New referendum launched to give expats the vote in Geneva

New referendum launched to give expats the vote in Geneva

A new referendum has been launched in Geneva to try and give expats who have lived in the canton for eight years or more the right to vote in cantonal affairs. Supporters argue that current rules mean a large swathe of Geneva’s population does not get a say in how the canton is run.

40 percent of Geneva's adult population cannot vote

Titled, “A life here, a voice here… Let us strengthen our democracy,” the initiative hopes to extend the franchise to all people with a residence permit who have lived in the canton of Geneva for eight years or more. Expats make up 40 percent of Geneva's residents, and campaigners say that on issues like healthcare, education, housing and taxation, this significant part of the population does not get a say.

The campaigners noted that, despite not being granted the vote, expats “finance these public policies through their work and their taxes and contribute directly to the social, cultural and economic life of the canton." They argue it is finally time to give these people what they deserve: a vote.

Expat voting in Switzerland to be put to a referendum

Currently, residence permit holders in Geneva are allowed to elect, vote and sign initiatives on the local level, and then only after eight years of residence. The initiative hopes to extend that right to cantonal referendums.

Currently, Canton Neuchâtel, Jura, Fribourg and parts of Graubünden are the only other cantons to give people without Swiss citizenship the right to stand and vote in local elections, although this is highly restrictive. The advocates of the referendum now have until August to gather the 8.157 signatures needed to put the issue on the ballot.

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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