Swiss National Council approves plan to give 16-year-olds the vote

Swiss National Council approves plan to give 16-year-olds the vote

The Swiss National Council has approved a plan to allow 16-year-olds to vote in elections and referendums. The idea remains controversial in parliament and will have to face a referendum of its own in the future.

Swiss lower house approves giving 16-year-olds the vote

The vote passed the lower house by 99 votes to 90 on Wednesday. If it passes the remaining hurdles, the move would allow 16-year-olds to vote in Switzerland’s frequent national elections and referendums, extending the franchise to an estimated 165.700 people.

Supporters of the move say that giving younger people voting rights is a vote of trust in them and in the Swiss education system. They hope that giving 16-year-olds a voice would inspire them to pursue a career in politics or in the government.

Opponents of the move are more hesitant. They point out that although the idea would give young people the right to vote, the “age of majority” would remain 18, which would lead to a situation where 16-years-old could vote, but couldn’t stand for election.

Hope to extend the franchise in Swiss cantons

Alongside the federal effort, there are five other cantonal attempts to make voting legal for 16-year-olds, with Zurich set to vote on the matter in May. So far, all but one Swiss canton have rejected the idea in recent polls, most recently in Neuchâtel and Uri. Only Canton Glarus allows 16-year-olds to take to the open-air assembly and vote in cantonal elections.

If it survives the scrutiny of the Council of States - Switzerland's upper house - the idea will still require an amendment to the Swiss federal constitution. This means that, much like granting women the right to vote in Switzerland, the idea has to be approved by a referendum.

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Editor for Switzerland at IamExpat Media. Jan studied History at the University of York and Broadcast Journalism at the University of Sheffield. Though born in York, Jan has lived most...

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