Referendum: Zurich to vote on lower voting age

Voters in Zurich will go to the polls to vote on a proposal to lower the voting age to 16 throughout the canton.

A voter casts their ballot in the Swiss canton of Zurich. Photo: SEBASTIAN DERUNGS / AFP
A voter casts their ballot in the Swiss canton of Zurich. Photo: SEBASTIAN DERUNGS / AFP

In Switzerland, the rules for voting are implemented at a cantonal level. 

If approved, it would make Zurich just the second of Switzerland’s 26 cantons to have a lower voting age than 18. 

Glarus, just south of Zurich, became the first canton to lower the voting age to 16 after a vote in 2007. 

What is the proposal?

Zurich parliament decided that people should be allowed to vote from the age of 16, rather than the current 18. 

As this would result in a change to the cantonal constitution, the issue must be put to the canton’s voters. Only those aged 18 and above will be entitled to vote on the proposal. 

EXPLAINED: What’s at stake in Switzerland’s May referendums?

Under the proposal, the minimum for anyone who wants to run for office would still be 18. 

How likely is it that Zurich will reduce voting age? 

As of early May, little polling has been done to get an insight into how likely it is that the vote will pass. 

While there have been several efforts to reduce voting age in Switzerland previously, only the Glarus vote was successful. 

Most recently, voters in the canton of Uri rejected a similar proposal in 2021, with 68.4 percent of voters rejecting the idea. 

Neuchâtel rejected a similar proposal in 2020. 

Generally speaking, younger people vote less regularly than the average in Switzerland. Less than one in three people aged 18 to 29 take part in elections regularly, compared with 45 percent of the broader population. 

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Zurich mandates organic food for hospitals, schools and cafeterias

Hospitals, schools, canteens and a range of other venues in Zurich will need to ensure the majority of their food is organic, after the council passed an initiative.

Zurich mandates organic food for hospitals, schools and cafeterias

The initiative, passed on Wednesday by 71 votes to 41, stipulates that at least 50 percent of the offerings must be organic. 

It applies to retirement and care centres, hospitals, day care centres, schools, canteens and cafeterias. 

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Environment and Health Director Andreas Hauri acknowledged that there may be some problems in converting over to organic food, but said he was “convinced we can still increase the proportion”. 

The city said it will now begin to examine how it can boost the proportion of organic foods to the required levels. 

The city’s nutrition strategy already calls for a greater amount of food from the surrounding region, but had previously been silent on the amount of organic food that should be included. 

While the initiative passed, there was some opposition from the right-wing Swiss People’s Party (SVP). 

The SVP said the change was “far removed from decency and reality”, arguing that it sent the wrong signals to developing countries. 

READ MORE: Will Switzerland be able to feed itself in the future?

The initiative is “an affront to people in poor countries who do not know how to feed themselves” said the SVP’s Johann Widmer. 

The Free Democratic Party (FDP) also opposed the change, saying it was unclear how the new standards would be implemented. 

Martina Zürcher asked how the 50 percent requirement should be measured. 

“In kilograms? In francs?” she said.