Cumulative voting enters the name of the same candidate twice on an electoral list. For the proportional election of the National Council (in cantons where several seats are at stake), the voter may not give more than two votes to the same person. To cumulate a candidate, they must write their name by hand on the ballot, otherwise the cumulative process is not valid.
A party or political party may include the name of one or more of its candidates twice on a ballot paper. This is known as pre-accumulating. The purpose of pre-accumulating is to increase the chances of the persons concerned or to fill the list if the party or political party does not provide as many candidates as there are seats to be filled. If a candidate appears twice on a list, it is no longer possible to add their name to the list by hand.
If the ballot paper contains fewer candidates than the number of seats to be distributed in the canton, the lines left blank count as complementary votes (i.e. they count as votes) for the electoral list (party, group of voters, etc.) whose name or number is indicated on the ballot paper.
The ballot paper is what voters use to vote. A ballot paper is sent to their home address along with election materials. Votes on unofficial ballot papers used for the election of the National Council are considered null and void and are not counted.
A candidate is a person who stands for election and meets the conditions laid down by law. In some cases, a candidate must be on a list; in others, any citizen of legal age can be considered a candidate and thus be elected. For more information, see the page about the conditions, procedures, competent authorities related to running for Parliament.
Two or more parties or candidate groups may decide to merge their lists to increase their chances of gaining seats in the National Council.
For example: party A and party B join their lists. When allotting mandates between the different lists, the votes obtained by lists A and B are counted together. The combined lists will thus have more votes and consequently also more chances of obtaining mandates in the National Council.
Only later are the seats obtained by the combined lists divided between each of the two lists. The seats are distributed in proportion to the votes obtained.
Within a combination, two or more lists may also decide to group themselves into a sub-combination. The aim is to increase the chances of obtaining a seat over other groups in the same combination.
Sub-combinations are only possible if the lists have the same basic name and are distinguished only by an addition that establishes a distinction of gender, age, wing of a political group or region. For example:
Grouping within list ‹A›: list ‹A women›, list ‹A youth›, list ‹B› and list ‹B youth› = list combination
Within this combined list, a sub-combination is possible. But in this case list ‹A› can only group with list ‹A youth› and/or list ‹A women› and cannot group with list ‹B› or list ‹B youth›.
The death of a candidate after the closing of the lists does not lead to the annulment of the National Council election under the system of proportional representation. The votes are counted as nominal votes and recognised as votes for the list.
For elections, the country is divided into several parts called electoral constituencies. Voters can elect the candidates running in their constituency. For the National Council elections, each canton forms an electoral constituency. In most cantons, voters can only elect candidates from their canton.
The electoral lists contain the names of the candidates who have decided to stand for election.
Each list must contain at least the name of one candidate and at most a number of candidates equal to the number of seats to which your canton is entitled.
Eligibility for election is the right to stand as a candidate and to be elected. Anyone who has the right to vote in Switzerland can run for the National Council.
The conditions of eligibility for election to the Council of States vary among cantons. For example: Only in certain cantons can Swiss citizens living abroad stand as candidates for election to the Council of States.
The Swiss Parliament is also called the Federal Assembly. Its main task is to adopt federal acts that are valid throughout Switzerland. It is based in Bern and consists of two chambers: the National Council and the Council of States.
For most decisions, the two chambers decide separately from each other. Only a few decisions are taken by all parliamentarians together, in what is called the United Federal Assembly. This is the case, for example, for the elections of members of the Federal Council and the Federal Supreme Court.
To find out more about the Federal Assembly, its activities and decisions, have a look at our page on the Swiss Parliament.
Ballot papers for the election of the National Council in cantons where the election is based on proportional representation are considered null and void if they:
are not official;
do not contain any names of candidates from the canton;
have been completed or altered other than by hand;
contain defamatory remarks or markings;
contain drawings, signatures or markings that make it possible to understand who filled in the ballot paper;
do not clearly indicate who you want to vote for.
Invalid ballots are not counted.
The Landsgemeinde is an assembly of citizens with voting rights that meets to elect authorities or to vote. All citizens have the right to speak and decisions are taken by a show of hands. This is one of the oldest forms of Swiss democracy. It appeared in the Middle Ages, and was used in eight cantons. Today it is only practised in the cantons of Appenzell Innerrhoden and Glarus (both websites available only in German).
In the cantons where the election is held under the system of proportional representation, a candidate's name can only appear on one list for the National Council. If their name appears on several lists in the same canton (multiple candidacy), the cantonal authority responsible for organising the election must automatically strike them off all the lists. If their name appears on the lists of several cantons, the Federal Chancellery automatically deletes it from all the lists except the first list it receives.
Each chosen candidate and each additional vote counts as a party vote for the electoral list. The number of party votes is decisive for the distribution of mandates between the different lists.
The names deleted and not replaced on pre-printed ballot papers count for the electoral list indicated at the top of the ballot paper (additional vote).
If a voter enters the name or number of a list on a ballot that is not pre-printed (blank ballot), the lines left blank count as the number of votes allocated to the list (additional vote). In this case, however, the voter must write at least one name of a candidate, otherwise the ballot is invalid.
If, on the other hand, the voter enters no name or no list number and the ballot paper contains at least one name of a candidate, the lines left blank are not counted
The political domicile is the commune in which a citizen exercises their political rights, i.e. the commune that sends them the electoral material and where they vote. Swiss nationals living abroad vote in their last commune of residence. If they have never lived in Switzerland, they vote in their commune of origin.
In Switzerland, citizens can vote at the ballot box or send their ballot by post, which is called postal voting.
Every person of Swiss nationality who has reached the age of 18 has the right to vote at federal level, i.e. they can participate in the election of the National Council, as well as in federal popular votes, but can also launch and sign referendums and initiatives at federal level. However, persons lacking legal capacity are ineligible to vote.
Please note: Voting rights for cantonal elections (including the election to the Council of States) are regulated at cantonal level and can vary from canton to canton.
National Council elections are held according to the simple majority system in six cantons (UR, GL, OW, NW, AR, AI). The candidate with the highest number of votes (simple majority) is elected.
The simple majority system is used in most cantons for elections to the Council of States. Elections take place in two rounds: In the first round, whoever obtains an absolute majority is elected; if any seats remain to be allocated, a second round is necessary. The cantons determine which requirements must be met in order to be eligible for the second round. In the second round, the person who obtains the most votes (relative majority) is elected.
The simple majority system is also used in most cantons for the election of members of the cantonal government.
The term in French comes from the French verb ‹panacher› or ‹to mix›. In cantons with more than one seat in the National Council, voters may enter names of candidates on other lists, deleting, if necessary, names of candidates on the original list. This must be done by hand, otherwise the ballot paper is null and void. In the end, the number of names on the ballot must not exceed the number of seats available to the canton.
This possibility exists only in those cantons where elections are held under the system of proportional representation. If a voter does not wish to elect a candidate on a pre-printed ballot, he or she may cross out the name, but only by hand. Be careful not to cross out all the names: a ballot paper must contain the name of at least one candidate to be valid. No vote is given to the candidates whose names are crossed out. But the lines corresponding to the crossed-out names are counted in favour of the list mentioned at the top of the electoral ballot paper.
If a seat becomes vacant during the four-year term in a canton using the proportional election system, the cantonal government declares the first incumbent on the list as elected (this is the candidate with the most votes after the elected candidates).
This is the National Council election organised in a canton (where the proportional system is in force) when:
the seats to be allocated exceed the number of candidates
there is no replacement for a seat that has become vacant on the same list.
Most cantons use the system of proportional representation for National Council elections. The system of proportional representation is based on the submission of lists of candidates. At the end of the vote, mandates are allocated to each list in proportion to the number of votes obtained. Only after the number of mandates available to the list has been established will the distribution of seats to the candidates on the list take place. The candidates with the most votes on a list will be elected.
In two cantons, elections to the Council of States also held using the system of proportional representation (NE, JU).
This is an election in which the cantonal government declares all candidates who have stood for election as elected because the number of candidates standing for election is less than the number of seats to be allocated.
The turnout is the percentage of people who have the right to vote and who actually vote.
For example: if 100 people have the right to vote and only 40 participate in a popular vote, the turnout is 40%.
The Federal Statistical Office plots detailed information in tables and graphs about the turnout in elections and the turnout in popular votes (both web pages available in German and French).
Voter identification cards or polling cards serve as proof that the person voting is entitled to do so. Citizens entitled to vote receive the card with the rest of the election material. Voters must return the card with their ballot paper if they want to vote by post or present it when they vote at the ballot box.
Voting by agent is when a person asks another person to cast their ballot in the ballot box. For federal elections, this method of voting is only possible in those cantons where the law allows it for cantonal elections and votes.