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Organising the Council of States elections: process, rules and principal stages

The cantons are responsible for organising the election of the 46 members of the Council of States. A large number of players are involved (authorities, political parties and candidates).

Each canton sets its own regulations on how its representatives are elected to the Council of States. Many have similar rules, but cantonal peculiarities remain. However, the representatives are directly elected by the People in all cantons.

How many candidates are elected in which canton?

How many seats does each canton have in Parliament?

When do the elections to the Council of States take place?

The first round of the election to the Council of States is held at the same time as elections to the National Council. The only exception is in the canton of Appenzell Innerrhoden, where People’s Assembly elects its one representative on the last Sunday in April.

Electoral system

Most of the cantons have a first-past-the-post system, in which the person who receives the most votes wins the seat. Some cantons have their own specific rules on how someone is elected), how the ballot is held and who is eligible to vote. 

People’s Assembly in Appenzell Innerrhoden

Candidates, parties, and who gets elected

The various political parties put forward candidates for election. However, independent candidates can usually also stand. In almost all of the cantons, the person(s) with the most votes and a defined minimum number of votes (usually the absolute majority) is elected. If there is no clear winner after the first round, a second vote is held. The cantons usually decide the date of the second round (if necessary) in advance.

How do you stand for election to the Council of States?

Ready to vote

A few weeks before the election, while the candidates are still out wooing voters, the cantons send out election material to the members of the electorate. The communes select a number of helpers and prepare the ballot boxes in the rooms where the election is to take place. At this point the voters, who now have all the information, instructions and materials needed to decide who will represent them in the Council of States for the next four years.

Election day

The voters elect the members of the Council of States on election weekend. When the polling stations close on Election Sunday, the key moment soon arrives for the candidates, when it is announced who has won a seat in the Council of States, who has lost the vote and who has to go through to a second round. The communes report the results to the cantons, which inform the winners and officially verify the election results.