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How to vote in the National Council elections in cantons with more than one seat: ZH, BE, LU, SZ, ZG, FR, SO, BS, BL, SH, SG, GR, AG, TG, TI, VD, VS, NE, GE, JU

How do I fill in a ballot paper correctly for the National Council in cantons where the election is by proportional representation? What options do I have? What are my votes worth in the final count?

Choose one official ballot paper

To vote, you must first choose one, and only one, of the official ballot papers you receive by post with the official election papers. You have two options:

  • one of the pre-printed ballot papers with different parties or groups of candidates (henceforth: ‘parties’)
  • the empty (or non-pre-printed) ballot paper
Voting materials for elections to the National Council and Council of States

The way you choose to fill in the ballot paper influences the result of the election (see below).

How to vote: the procedure step by step

You have different options for voting. You can either amend the ballot paper you have selected or leave it as it is. Below you can find details of all the options together with explanatory videos.

  • Option 1: Use the pre-printed ballot paper without amending it

    If you are completely happy with a pre-printed party list, put the ballot paper into the appropriate envelope as it is.

    COUNTING THE VOTES: The list you have selected receives the same number of votes as the number of seats available in the canton. Any blank lines also count as votes for the list. Each candidate on your selected list receives one vote (personal votes).


  • Option 2: Amend the pre-printed ballot paper

     You are also allowed to amend the ballot paper. You can do this as follows:

    1. DELETION: Removing one or more candidates
      - HOW DO I DO THIS? Simply cross out all the candidate’s / candidates’ details (number, first name and surname).
      - WHEN THE VOTES ARE COUNTED: The candidate whose name is crossed out will not receive a vote (personal vote). The space on the ballot paper will, however, count as a vote for the list you have selected (additional vote).

    2. ACCUMULATING: Voting twice for one or more candidates.  
      HOW DO I DO THIS? Write (by hand) the name of a candidate from the pre-selected list a second time or the name of a candidate from another list.
      - WHERE DO I DO THIS ? On a blank line or on the line of another candidate you have previously deleted.
      CAREFUL: If a candidate’s name already appears twice on the pre-printed list, further accumulation by hand is not possible. Moreover, the number of candidates on your list must not exceed the number of seats available in your canton for the National Council.
      - WHEN THE VOTES ARE COUNTED: The accumulated candidate receives two personal votes. These two votes also go to the list on the ballot paper you have chosen.

    3. SPLITTING THE VOTE: Voting for one or more candidates from other lists.
      HOW DO I DO THIS? How do I do this? Write the names of candidates from other lists by hand on your ballot paper. 
      - WHERE DO I DO THIS ? Write the name of the candidate on a blank line on the list, or on the line containing the details of another candidate which you have previously deleted. You may not write the name of any given candidate from the list on your ballot paper or any other list more than twice.
      - WHEN THE VOTES ARE COUNTED: All candidates on the amended ballot paper will each receive one personal vote. As you have split the vote, the pre-printed list you have selected will receive one vote fewer, while the list to which you added the candidate’s name will receive one vote more.

    4. You can both accumulate and split the vote using the same list.
      - WHEN THE VOTES ARE COUNTED: The candidates on your final ballot paper will each receive a personal vote (two in the case of accumulation). The list you have chosen will receive the same number of votes as the number of seats available in the canton. However, for each candidate you have voted from another list, the list you have pre-selected will receive one vote fewer. This vote goes to the other list (the one whose candidate you have voted for by splitting the vote).
  • Option 3: Fill in the ballot paper without a pre-printed list

    You can use the non-pre-printed ballot paper (empty ballot paper) and fill it in as you wish:

    • Space for the name of the list: You can leave this blank or write the name or number of a list selected from the pre-printed lists.
    • Lines for candidates: Write by hand the names and numbers of the candidates you wish to vote for. They must be selected from the candidates on the pre-printed lists.
    • You can also accumulate on a non-pre-printed ballot paper. Careful: The name of a given candidate may only be written twice at most

    - WHEN THE VOTES ARE COUNTED: The candidates on your ballot paper will each receive a personal vote (two in the case of accumulation). If you write the name of a list at the top of the ballot paper, the blank lines count as votes for this list (additional votes). Otherwise, the blank lines will not count as votes for any list (votes not cast).

  • Option 4: Use the ballot paper without a designated list and leave it blank (cast a blank ballot paper)

    If you want to take part in the election but you do not wish to vote for any list or candidate, you can use the non-pre-printed ballot paper and leave it blank without amending it.

    WHEN THE VOTES ARE COUNTED: Blank ballot papers do not affect the result of the elections. However, they are taken into account when calculating voter turnout.

  • Rules for casting a valid vote:

    When filling in your ballot paper, you must also respect the following rules if you want your vote to be valid:

    • Only use an official ballot paper.
    • Use one ballot paper only.
    • Write legibly and by hand.
    • Select official candidates only, i.e. those on the pre-printed ballot papers.
    • Always write out the surnames, first names and candidate numbers in full. Ditto marks, ‘idem’ and similar signs are not permitted.
    • The same name may appear no more than twice
    • Write the details of no more candidates than the number of seats available in your canton.
      How many members of the National Council can I elect in my canton?
    • A ballot paper with a list designation must include at least one valid candidate name from that list.
    • If you use a non-pre-printed ballot paper and you want the lines left blank to count for a list, do not forget to write the name of the list at the top of your ballot paper.
    • Do not write anything else on the ballot paper or on the official voting envelope.
  • What do I do after filling in the ballot paper?

    Put your completed ballot paper inside the official voting envelope and sign the polling card (exception: in the canton of Basel-Stadt). You can then:

    • go straight to the ballot box: The opening times and addresses of the polling stations are sent with the official election materials.
    • vote by post: Put the official voting envelope in the return envelope together with the signed polling card. In certain cantons, the return envelope is also the ballot envelope. Then return this by post.
    • drop the return envelope in the letterbox of the your local commune offices.
  • Information

    For further information on how to fill in the ballot paper, please contact the authority responsible in your canton or your commune: