Referendum: Zurich to vote on lower voting age

Voters in Zurich will go to the polls to vote on a proposal to lower the voting age to 16 throughout the canton.

A voter casts their ballot in the Swiss canton of Zurich. Photo: SEBASTIAN DERUNGS / AFP
A voter casts their ballot in the Swiss canton of Zurich. Photo: SEBASTIAN DERUNGS / AFP

In Switzerland, the rules for voting are implemented at a cantonal level. 

If approved, it would make Zurich just the second of Switzerland’s 26 cantons to have a lower voting age than 18. 

Glarus, just south of Zurich, became the first canton to lower the voting age to 16 after a vote in 2007. 

What is the proposal?

Zurich parliament decided that people should be allowed to vote from the age of 16, rather than the current 18. 

As this would result in a change to the cantonal constitution, the issue must be put to the canton’s voters. Only those aged 18 and above will be entitled to vote on the proposal. 

EXPLAINED: What’s at stake in Switzerland’s May referendums?

Under the proposal, the minimum for anyone who wants to run for office would still be 18. 

How likely is it that Zurich will reduce voting age? 

As of early May, little polling has been done to get an insight into how likely it is that the vote will pass. 

While there have been several efforts to reduce voting age in Switzerland previously, only the Glarus vote was successful. 

Most recently, voters in the canton of Uri rejected a similar proposal in 2021, with 68.4 percent of voters rejecting the idea. 

Neuchâtel rejected a similar proposal in 2020. 

Generally speaking, younger people vote less regularly than the average in Switzerland. Less than one in three people aged 18 to 29 take part in elections regularly, compared with 45 percent of the broader population. 

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Zurich approves simplified path to Swiss citizenship

Voters in Switzerland’s most populous canton on Sunday approved a proposal which will make it easier for foreigners to get Swiss citizenship.

Zurich approves simplified path to Swiss citizenship

The vote passed with 69.1 percent support, making it the most popular of the four initiatives put to the polls. 

Around 350,000 foreigners live in Zurich, which is roughly one quarter of the population – although the percentage is as high as 50 percent in some municipalities. 

The successful proposal called for Zurich’s naturalisation process, including the citizenship exam, to be made uniform across all 162 municipalities. 

The questions in the exam will now be centralised on a cantonal level. 

The test will include 350 questions about Swiss history, tradition, politics and culture, with a focus on Zurich. 

Anyone taking the test will be given 50 questions at random and must answer at least 30 correctly to pass. 

More information about the citizenship process in Zurich can be found at the following link. 

EXPLAINED: How Zurich wants to make naturalisation easier

What else was decided on Sunday? 

Voters in Zurich also decided to reject a proposal to lower the voting age to 16, with 64.1 percent saying ‘nein’ to the proposal. 

A proposal to provide for more parental leave – and even up gender imbalances between fathers and mothers – was also rejected. 

Finally, voters supported law changes which sought to enshrine Zurich’s climate change goals in the cantonal constitution. 

A detailed breakdown of the vote can be seen here.