Born in the US, raised in Switzerland with strong family ties in Ghana, I’ve been lucky enough to have the right to vote in all three democracies. However, exercising my right to vote in all three places may not be as straightforward as one may think.
I come from countries where democracy lies at the root of each constitution. The United States is the second largest democracy in the world; Ghana is one of the oldest and most democratic countries in Africa. According to the Democracy Index, Switzerland ranks in the top 10 most democratic countries in the world. This has been an election year in all three countries, which begged the question, how easy is it to vote around the world?
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Switzerland is a direct democracy, meaning that all citizens take part in decision-making. Citizens can launch a popular initiative to demand a change to the constitution: any Swiss citizen who is eligible to vote can launch their own popular initiative. For example, on November 29th the Swiss electorate voted on the Popular Initiative “For responsible businesses – protecting human rights and the environment.” This is an initiative that was launched by an everyday Swiss citizen. Additionally, when it comes to the election cycle in Switzerland, it’s quite peculiar. Every year, the Swiss people vote for a party and the head of the party will assume the honorific title of President of the Swiss Confederation for a one-year term.
In terms of casting your vote in Switzerland, the process is very simple; there is no voter registration necessary. You receive a ballot in the mail with a small pamphlet explaining what you are voting for and how to fill out the ballot. All you have to do is tick the yes or no box for that proposition or tick which party you’re voting for. Once you’re done, you just mail in your ballot and it’s done. As a Swiss citizen, I am able to do this anywhere around the world as long as I am registered at said country’s embassy. It’s quick, easy and simple – this is what democracy should look like.
When it comes to Ghana, the election process is very similar to America. It’s a multiparty system with two major parties. The president is elected to a four-year term by a majority vote (must receive 51% of the votes). Just like America, Ghanaian citizens have to register to vote prior to election day. While in America you can mail in your ballot and vote from abroad, in Ghana, you have to be there physically to vote. Unfortunately, I’ve never exercised my right to vote in Ghana as I was not able to make it in time for election day.
In my opinion, it’s safe to say that Switzerland has the most accessible voting process, followed by the US then Ghana. What I do find interesting is that in the country where voting is the most accessible, the voter turnout is the lowest. Perhaps the reason is that Switzerland is a well-oiled machine: whoever you vote for will not really make a difference in your day-to-day life. Swiss citizens may not be so inclined to vote because there’s not much at stake, whereas Ghana is a rapidly developing country with a fairly fragile economy, and with the wrong leadership, the economy can tank. The voter turnout in Ghana is high because there is a lot at stake. As the US is becoming more and more divisive, each election becomes more important than the previous one. If countries like Ghana and the US would adopt the same voting model as Switzerland, I believe they would have a more representative election result.