Zurich voters strongly reject lowering the voting age to 16

The Local
The Local - [email protected] • 16 May, 2022 Updated Mon 16 May 2022 11:58 CEST
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A voter casts their ballot in the Swiss canton of Zurich. Photo: SEBASTIAN DERUNGS / AFP

Zurich voters have rejected a referendum proposal to lower the voting age to 16 within the canton by a two-thirds majority, seemingly extinguishing the plan’s hopes at a federal level.

On Sunday, Zurich voters had the chance to see the canton become just the second in Switzerland to lower the voting age to 16. 

The proposal was however roundly rejected, with 64.8 percent of voters saying no. 

Almost every municipality in the entire canton of Zurich was against the proposal, other than Winterthur Altstadt and a handful of electorates in the centre of Zurich city. 

Despite the vote focusing on suffrage for 16 year olds, only those aged 18 and over were permitted to vote. 

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.

A consequence of the change in Glarus saw a greater adoption of progressive policies, including those focused on reducing environmental damage and climate change.

Is the proposal now dead at a federal level? 

The proposal’s supporters largely sit on the left side of Swiss politics, with the Greens being some of the most prominent advocates. 

As Zurich’s electorate is far more progressive than the rest of the country, it is likely the proposal is dead in the water. 

Other cantons have already rejected a similar move, including Uri and Neuchâtel, while Glarus approved a change in 2007. 

At this stage, it is unlikely the proposal even sees a vote at a federal level. 

Referendum: Zurich to vote on lower voting age

Andrea Caroni, from the Council of States representing Appenzeller Ausserrhoden, said the proposal raised a range of other issues and he doubts the proposal would even reach a federal vote. 

"Only one canton has said yes so far." 

"One would have to be consistent: if one wanted to lower the voting age, the age of consent would also have to be reduced."

Mathias Zopfi, from the Greens, said that while it was unlikely the proposal would be successful at a federal level, it should still be put to a vote at a national level. 

"The fact that the people of Zurich are against lowering the voting age does not increase the chances." 

“(However) we don't have to be afraid of democracy. If Switzerland says no to lowering the voting age, then they say no.”

Switzerland approves all federal proposals

Swiss voters on Sunday accepted all three legislative proposals put forth by the Federal Council — the organ donation, Lex Netflix and Frontex.

Swiss law requires a referendum when a proposal for a law change made by the government is opposed by enough voters. 

With all three initiatives proposed by the government solidly backed by the voters, “the authorities won everything this Sunday”, commented The Tribune de Genève.

More information is available at the following link. 

REACTION: How Switzerland responded to Sunday’s referendum results

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