No e-vote counting at open-air assembly

The tradition of the Glarus open-air assemblies began more than 600 years ago Keystone

The government of canton Glarus has come out against the use of electronic vote counting devices during the traditional open-air assembly.

This content was published on September 7, 2016 - 13:34
Urs Geiser and Sibilla Bondolfi (additional reporting),

Based on an expert study, the government decided that the current system of approximate estimations of the number of raised hands for votes at the annual assembly on the town square should be continued.

“It does not make sense to interfere with a proven procedure as there is no need for a change,” the government said in a statement.

The authorities say the powers of the government head would be curtailed it he no longer had the final say in a vote estimation.

In its report to the cantonal parliament, the government also said there are no reliable technical devices available for vote counting and the development of such a system would cost too much.


Over the past five years, there were five votes where the authorities had to carry out a repeated estimation of the majority of votes, the report added.

Political scientist Hans-Peter Schaub is not convinced by the government report.

"Assembly-style democracy does not mean that votes must be estimated," he told "Many such democracies have had a system of exact vote counting."

He adds that open-air assemblies are not a stage for the government head but a platform for citizens.

No obvious majorities

In 2008, the Glarus parliament called on the government to commission an in-depth study to evaluate a method which can be applied in cases where there is no obvious majority among the participants of the open-air assembly.

The government added that the present system is widely accepted and the Supreme Court in 2006 rejected an appeal against a vote.

Nevertheless, the government says it is aware of certain “disadvantages of the open-air democracy”, notably limited participation, a lack of secret ballots and “a certain margin of error” in the estimated vote majority carried out by the head of the cantonal government.

Glarus and Appenzell Inner Rhodes are the only two cantons where citizens meet every year to decide on political issues. Up to 12,000 people take part in the Glarus assembly.

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