Are you non-Swiss and wondering about voting in Switzerland?  Do you know the eligibility requirements but are dreading another time-consuming bureaucratic exercise?  In honor of the upcoming Swiss National Day, please read on to learn a few tips and tricks about voting in Geneva.


There are 3 levels of Swiss government (federal, canton and commune). At the federal level, anyone who is Swiss and above 18 years of age can exercise their right to vote.  However among the 26 cantons, the laws vary on whether foreign residents are permitted to vote and/or stand for elected office.  In April 2005, Geneva passed (on the 5th try!) an initiative that granted non-Swiss residents the right to vote at the commune level, so long as they have lived within the canton of Geneva for at least 8 years.

Thus, if you have lived in one or more of Geneva’s 45 communes (from Aire-la-Ville to Veyrier) for 8 years, you are eligible (and much encouraged!) to register to vote at the commune level (not the canton or federal levels).  Elections occur roughly 4X/year for all 3 levels of government.  Go ahead and start paying more attention to the posters plastered around town:


And if you think registering to vote will be a challenge, fear not!  Registering was something I put off for months, certain that it would involve a ticket dispenser and a lengthy visit to a dreary government office.  Those readers who have visited the OCP in Onex might relate.

In fact, once I found the voting/elections office (hidden away in Acacias, and locating it was the most challenging part of registering), I was in and out in less than 5 minutes.  No forms to fill out, no time-sensitive attestations to furnish, just simply bring your residency permit and the agent behind the counter will take care of the rest.  Once registered, all you need to do is wait for the voting material to arrive in your mailbox preceding the next commune-level vote.


For more details on how to vote in Geneva, click here: Vote in Geneva.

How do you engage in Geneva’s civic life?  Please share in in the comments below!

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