In Switzerland, we’re always voting on something. Under the system of direct democracy, federal legislation adopted by the parliament can be subjected to a popular veto in a referendum which can be required through only 50,000 signatures (around 1.2% of eligible voters). Amendments to the federal constitution require a mandatory referendum. With the signatures of 100,000 eligible voters (around 2.5% of the electorate), an initiative amending the federal constitution is placed before the parliament, which can either recommend or reject the initiative, with, in the latter case, the option of proposing an alternative (“counter-project”). In any case, the issue is placed before the voters, who get to choose among the initiative amendment, the counter-project, or outright rejection of both. In a referendum on vetoing a parliamentary act, a simple majority of the nationwide vote is required to reject the law, while for constitutional amendments a “double majority” consisting of a majority of the national popular vote and a majority of cantons based upon the popular vote within each canton is required.
A similar system exists at the two lower levels of government as well: canton and commune. Each individual jurisdiction makes its own rules, but in general the threshold for a referendum or initiative is around 1% of the eligible electorate. The population of the canton of Neuchâtel, where I live, is around 176,000, so subtracting off foreigners who are not permanent residents and children, it only takes around 1500 signatures to put an initiative or referendum on the ballot, and it isn’t that difficult to get that many signatures for just about anything. I recall votes over the years on issues such as whether the bike lanes on the main street through Neuchâtel should be abolished and whether advertising shown before the feature in movie theatres should be banned.
On February 9, 2020, residents of Neuchâtel are called to pronounce on the latest issue: modifying the cantonal constitution to extend the right to vote to those 16 years and older, from the current requirement of 18. Here is the brochure about the issue [PDF]. This was a popular initiative brought by 6,624 signatures. The parliament (Grand Conseil), accepted the initiative by a vote of 59 to 46, and the executive (Conseil d’État, 5 members elected every four years) also approved it. As a constitutional amendment, it must now be submitted to the people. I voted early.
The political parties are split in their recommendations, with five parties recommending a No vote and four in favour (details are on page 6 of the brochure I linked above). In general, the right is opposed and the left is for.
What do you think of the idea of 16-year-olds voting?