The Swiss referendum system

Switzerland’s semi-direct democracy requires that citizens express their views by voting more frequently than in any other country. At all levels (municipalities, cantons and state), citizens can propose changes to the constitution through ‘popular initiatives’. These need 100,000 signatures to be considered. Swiss citizens can also start petitions on any law passed at all political levels, thus triggering optional referendums when signed by at least 50,000 people. Moreover, Switzerland holds compulsory referendums on certain types of decisions such as when parliament amends the Federal Constitution. The Swiss government’s website keeps track of the status and content of all referendums and petitions. In some cantons it is possible to vote electronically and there are plans to extend this practice to the national level.