The majority of voters vote by post. Swiss Post delivers the completed ballot papers to the office that counts the votes. This is almost always your own commune. When you deposit your ballot papers in the ballot box or put them in the commune's letterbox, they end up directly with the commune.
Larger communes need more space to count votes, and may use a sports hall. Cities easily need several hundred or even over 1,000 tellers. Depending on the commune, tellers may be employees, volunteers or people who have been randomly selected and engaged. Some communes count votes in more than one place, or delegate their vote count to a larger neighbouring commune.
This is how the votes are sorted
In a first step, the tellers open the envelopes received. They check that the polling card is signed. (Exceptions are the cantons of Basel-Stadt and Appenzell Ausserrhoden, where no signature is required). Without a signature, the votes are invalid. The tellers will only forward the sealed envelopes with the ballot papers for counting if the polling card has been signed.
In a second step, the tellers open the ballot envelopes. Because the polling cards were removed from the envelopes beforehand, it is impossible to trace a ballot back to the person who cast it. This safeguards the secrecy of the vote.
Vote counting in brief
And finally, the votes are counted according to cantonal procedure.
As soon as the commune has counted all the votes, it sends the results to the election office in the canton. The cantonal election office tallies up the results of its communes. At this stage, it becomes clear who has been elected.
Finally, the cantonal election office reports the results to the Confederation, which publishes the provisional results for election day.
After election day, the cantons or communes must keep the ballot papers. They can only destroy them once the Federal Statistical Office has completed any corrections and adjustments, and no more complaints or criminal proceedings are pending.