Swiss president backs vote for 16-year-olds

Burkhalter said lowering the voting age would “reinforce young people’s sense of responsibility and their integration in our community”. Keystone

The Swiss should be able to vote from the age of 16, according to President Didier Burkhalter, but the decision should be made at communal and cantonal levels. Young people’s interest in voting has been a hot topic in the Swiss press in recent weeks.

This content was published on April 13, 2014 - 15:53 and agencies

Burkhalter told the Schweiz am Sonntag" newspaper that lowering the voting age from 18 to 16 would “reinforce young people’s sense of responsibility and their integration in our community”.

But this idea should be studied at the communal and cantonal levels, he added.

At present out of the 26 cantons only Graubünden allows people to cast a ballot at the age of 16. In many others - Neuchâtel, Jura, Fribourg, Bern, Argovia, Zurich, Basel Country and City, Solothurn, St Gallen and Thurgovia - local parliaments have discussed the question or it has been refused by the local population.

The issue surrounding young people ‘s motivation to vote has featured heavily in the Swiss press since the February 9 vote to curb immigration, which was narrowly decided by 50.3% of voters.

Last week Vox analysis research claimed that only 17% of voters under 30 had cast their ballot that day, but that such absenteeism was not unusual.

However, an article in the NZZ am Sonntag newspaper on Sunday rejected this analysis claiming the figure was more like 40%.

Zurich professor Marco Steenbergen told the NZZ am Sonntag that the Vox analysis was ‘very probably wrong’.

The article had examined official anonymous voting statistics from cantons Geneva, Neuchâtel and St Gallen, while the Vox analysis was based on 200 telephone surveys done after the vote.

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