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, Basel to unveil identity cards for undocumented people

Authorities in the Swiss cantons of Zurich and Basel City have announced plans to roll out a specialised identity card, which can be used by undocumented people.

Zurich, Basel to unveil identity cards for undocumented people

Voters in Zurich approved the move on Sunday, which required a loan of 3.2 million euros. 

The decision to approve the card was narrow, with only 51.7 percent of people approving the card. 

The card will confirm the person’s identity and place of residence, however it will not contain any information about origin and residency status. 

The card had widespread support from all major Swiss political parties other than the right-wing SVP, which called it “worthless” and “illegal”. 

In addition to making life safer for Zurich’s undocumented immigrants, the card will allow them to access a wide range of services, including council services, thereby promoting integration. 

The card also makes things easier on an administrative basis for Zurich authorities. 

“The Züri City Card combines previous cards on one ID card (e.g. Badi-Abo, Theaterpass), creates secure access to online services and saves costs for the authorities.”

EXPLAINED: How Zurich has simplified the Swiss citizenship process

There will however be a delay with the new card. It is not expected to be rolled out for five years due to the time it takes to create the legal framework and work out data protection and technical issues. 

Basel to adopt similar card

The canton of Basel City has announced a similar measure to protect the estimated 4,000-8,000 undocumented people living in the small canton. 

Called the Basel City Card, an initiative has been announced with a campaign to begin in autumn. 

Like the Zurich card, the Basel edition will be put to a vote.