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Organising the National Council elections: process, rules and principal stages

It takes several months to organise the election of the 200 members of the National Council. The process involves numerous people (authorities, parties, candidate groups, candidates)

The Federal Chancellery acts as umpire

The Federal Chancellery informs the cantons of the rules in force and the procedures to be followed in the National Council elections. It is then up to the cantons to follow these regulations and communicate them to their own communes, organise the National Council elections and carry out any necessary checks.

Parties, candidate groups and selecting candidates

In the cantons with more than one seat in the National Council, the parties and other candidate groups select their candidates. They prepare the electoral lists that they are going to present to the voters. Only persons that appear on a cantonal electoral list can be elected.

The situation is different in cantons with only one seat in the National Council: in the cantons of Obwalden and Nidwalden, only the candidates listed on the ballot paper can be elected. In the cantons of Uri, Glarus, Appenzell Ausserrhoden und Appenzell Innerrhoden, however, there is no mandatory procedure for registering as a candidate. This means that any person who is eligible to vote can be elected.

Standing as an independent or for a political party
How to stand for election to the National Council

The cantons and Federal Chancellery check the lists of candidates

The political parties or the candidate groups submit the lists of the candidates standing for election to the cantons. The cantons check the lists of candidates and forward them to the Federal Chancellery. The Chancellery checks all the names on the lists (in the 2015 National Council elections there were almost 3800 candidates). It makes sure that no one is standing in more than one canton at the same time or is named on more than one list. In Switzerland every constituency, i.e. every canton, has its own candidates: there is no national list for each party, but instead different lists and different candidates in each canton.

Voters receive a complete set of voting papers at least three and no more than four weeks before polling day.

Ready to vote

 A few weeks before the elections, while the parties and candidate groups are busy campaigning and candidates are trying to win over voters, electoral helpers in the communes are appointed and the ballot boxes are prepared for the polling stations. Voters also move into action. In the meantime they have received all the necessary documentation, information and instructions to be able to choose who should represent them in the National Council for the next four years.

Polling day

20 October 2019 is polling day in all the cantons. Thousands of electoral helpers in the communes are busy counting ballot papers; the communes pass on the results to the cantons. They compile the results, publish them and report them to the Federal Chancellery.
The Federal Council then approves a report on the elections to be submitted to the National Council itself. The newly elected National Council acknowledges this report in its first session.

Last modification: november 2019