On Sunday, the residents of the Swiss canton of Appenzell Inner Rhodes will choose their senator via a traditional show of hands in a tradition known as the “Landsgemeinde”. For the first time, the election will be broadcast live on the internet.
By voting for their representative in Switzerland’s upper house of parliament, canton Appenzell Inner Rhodes will kick off the 2019 federal elections. However, they will be doing it in their own unique style.
The Landsgemeinde is one of the oldest and simplest forms of direct democracy in Switzerland. All registered electors are invited once a year to assemble in the open air to elect the government with a show of hands. Glarus is the only other Swiss canton which still follows the practice but voting is restricted to changes in the constitution and laws or set tax levels.
Appenzell Inner Rhodes’ flirtation with a live online broadcast of the Landsgemeinde is a pilot project. The idea is to allow citizens who cannot attend the assembly to follow proceedings live via the canton’s websiteexternal link. The small population of just under 12,000 inhabitants (equal to that in 1850) keeps the Landsgemeinde tradition from becoming completely impractical to implement.
The cantonal government has also decided to continue another pilot experiment introduced last year: simultaneous translation into sign language. The uptake for this service was disappointing and officials hope it will be used more this time around.
In addition to voting on various matters, the Citizens' Assembly will elect two members of the cantonal government and a new senator to the country’s upper house of parliament. The rest of the country has to wait until October 20 to take part in the federal elections.