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If you are at least 18 years old, have Swiss citizenship and are not under guardianship due to permanent lack of capacity of judgement, you can take part in votes at federal level and elections to the National Council. You can also launch and supply your signature to referendums and initiatives at federal level.
You do not have to register specially to take part in federal votes. As soon as you become entitled to vote you will be automatically registered on the electoral roll in your commune of residence.
Swiss people living abroad must register separately to do this.
Whereas you have to be 18 or over to vote at federal level, the cantons are free to give minors voting rights at cantonal level. Currently canton Glarus allows 16- and 17-year-olds to vote on cantonal and communal issues, whilst you have to be 18 or above to participate in elections.
If you are a Swiss living abroad and wish to vote at federal level you have to be registered at a Swiss diplomatic mission and be on the electoral roll of a Swiss commune (your last commune of residence or, exceptionally, your place of origin). You can also take part in elections to the National Council. However, you can only take part in elections to the Council of States if your local cantonal law permits.
Switzerland was one of the last countries in the world to allow women to vote. Women have only been able to vote and take part in elections at federal level since 1971. At cantonal level, Vaud and Neuchâtel were the first cantons to give women the vote, in 1959. Appenzell Innerrhoden was the canton most resistant to introducing women’s suffrage, being forced to do so in 1990 by a Federal Supreme Court decision.
Foreign nationals are not allowed to take part in votes and elections at federal level. However, in some cantons they are permitted to take part in cantonal and/or communal ballots.