Citizens with the right to vote on federal matters can launch or sign a request for an optional referendum at federal level. All Swiss citizens over the age of eighteen have the right to vote, unless they lack legal capacity. This is set out in Art.136 of the Federal Constitution.
Swiss citizens living abroad may sign a request for an optional referendum provided they are over the age of eighteen and they are registered at the embassy of the country where they reside.
The people who collect signatures for referendums must comply with certain formal requirements. For example, each sheet may only contain signatures of voters from the same commune, since it is primarily the communes that check and validate the signatures. If certain formal requirements are not met, the signatures will be considered invalid.
Signatures are checked by two authorities:
The communes check that the signatures are valid. They ensure that the persons signing are registered on the electoral roll and check whether anyone has signed more than once.
The Federal Chancellery checks to make sure the signatures fulfil the legal requirements.
When you sign a request for an optional referendum, you should write your family name and first name legibly by hand on the list, and then add your signature. You can download and print out lists for collecting signatures for an optional referendum (PDF).