Youth groups reject ‘double weighting’ of votes

Young Swiss vote in Lausanne in October 2015 Keystone

The presidents of youth parliamentary groups in Switzerland have rejected a proposal for a new electoral weighting system allowing a young person’s vote to count double. 

This content was published on July 3, 2016 with agencies

“This idea is contrary to our democracy,” Tamara Funiciello, president of the youth branch of the leftwing Social Democratic Party, told the SonntagsBlick newspaper on Sunday. 

She was commenting on an idea put forward by a member of the Zurich cantonal government, Jacqueline Fehr, to reorganise the voting system in Switzerland. Under her plan, the vote of someone aged 18-40 would count double, a voter aged 40-65 would be multiplied by a factor of 1.5 and a ballot cast by anyone over 65 would be equal to a single vote. 

She launched the idea on Facebook last week declaring, “basically it’s the young people who have to bear the consequences of political decisions.” She proposes for young people to mobilise in favour of her idea or to launch an initiative. 

“In addition, young people will find themselves increasingly in a minority in the future,” Fehr told the Tages-Anzeiger newspaper. 

However, her idea has not met with support from other young party leaders. 

“Politics needs democratic legitimacy and that is only guaranteed by the principle of one citizen one vote,” said the Young Swiss People’s Party president Benjamin Fischer, who added that it risked opening Pandora’s Box. 

The proposal follows close on the heels of the British referendum on June 23, which resulted in the UK voting by 51.9% to 49.1% to withdraw from the European Union.

The vote generated huge debate about voter participation and the generational divide. More than 70% of people aged 18 to 24 voted to remain in the EU, while among those over 60 there was a large majority in favour of leaving. 

Meanwhile, the idea of lowering the voting age to 16 to encourage young people to vote continues. The think tank Avenir Suisse recently published a study looking at the effects of an aging society for Swiss democracy. 

It wrote: 'With a birth rate of 1.5 children per woman, each upcoming generation that is old enough to vote will be smaller than the preceding generation that is about to retire. Direct democracy has never faced such a test.”

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