And how fast was it? We’ve been in a whirl since July.
Frankly, I’m still reeling from the fact that we went to the biometric data center in Aarau on a Monday, got pictures taken, irises and fingerprints scanned, and then ON WEDNESDAY we received our red passports and national ID cards. Clearly A-post was in use.
And there were some emotional moments of transition, like when I had to surrender my Ausländerausweis (foreigner’s ID card). Forever. I took it to the town clerk, it was recorded and destroyed. More about that later.
We celebrated with a “red and white” party, complete with a Swiss trivia test; name-the-canton flags; Swiss wine, beer, and fresh apple cider from a local farmer; and huge blocks of cheese.
We borrowed industrial-strength raclette ovens from Sepp the Cheese Guy and a spent a sunny summer afternoon with friends and neighbors in the garden, melting cheese. Our guests were a good mix of foreigners, dual citizens, and Swiss persons. We have arrived.
Then there’s voting.
I’ve been voting a lot since becoming a card-carrying Eidgenossin. In the last half year, there have been two referendum weekends and one town meeting. Each of these occasions requires a great deal of reading beforehand: we get comprehensive pamphlets mailed to us at home, along with the personalized ballot paper.
It’s a fair amount of work to keep up with the issues at hand, and form an intelligent opinion at the right time. It’s no wonder that voter participation in Switzerland is, well, modest. According to the Federal Office of Statistics, 43.7% of eligible voters did their duty in 2018. This is the average from four separate polling days, which covered a total of 10 different proposals. Note that’s ten at the federal level: your mileage may vary, depending on which canton you live in and whether you have any local referenda.
For example, here’s what we voted on in September. At the federal level, federal authorities won the right to coordinate bicycle routes across Switzerland (as is already done for hiking routes). Voters rejected a proposal to create more rules for food producers in Switzerland regarding sustainability, and to require imported food to meet the same standards. Fortunately, a proposal to give Swiss agriculture priority by raising tariffs on certain products (against existing trade agreements) was also rejected. In our canton, voters also rejected a proposal to more than double the tax rates for high earners (colloquially known as “the millionaire’s tax”, though it would have kicked in well under that amount).
In November, voters rejected both an initiative to raise subsidies for farmers who leave the horns on their cows and goats (here’s a cool video explaining it from the federal government, in German), plus a bizarre nationalist proposal to give Swiss law precedence over international law. However, a measure to allow social insurance detectives to investigate people receiving benefits was passed. At the cantonal level, voters rejected a measure that would require the canton to pay private forest owners for taking care of their woods, and narrowly passed a change to our canton’s constitution that will allow Swiss citizens living abroad to be allowed to vote for the representatives of the canton in the upper house of parliament. (This could come in handy for us later.)
And in our town meeting in December, we approved next year’s budget, accepted new statutes regarding child care outside the family, and voted in a bunch of new citizens. I made my debut at the microphone by telling a member of the nationalist right Swiss People’s Party that his counterproposal for changing the subsidy scale for child care was ridiculous, then prodded the town council to create a committee to explore all-day child care and enrichment programs in cooperation with the school.
I’ve been waiting long enough to make some noise. However, this is unusual behavior for the “nouveau Suisse”, it seems. At the requisite apéro after the town meeting, my wine glass was frequently refilled by town councilors and fellow villagers as discussion continued. 2019 here we come.