Domhnall O’Sullivan at swissinfo.ch:” “Voting up to four times a year, as the Swiss do, is a nice democratic right, but it also means keeping up with a lot of topics.
Usually this means following the media, talking to family and friends, watching what political parties and campaigners are saying, and wading through information sent out by authorities before vote day.
Last week, in advance of the next national ballot on February 9, 21,000 voters in the town of Sion got something new in the post: an informational sheet, drafted by a group of 20 randomly selected locals, giving a citizen’s take on what’s at stake.
The document, written by the citizen panel over two weekends last November, is the first output of ‘demoscan’: a project aiming to spur participation in a country where turnout rates are low and electoral issues sometimes complex.
On the front side, the issue (a proposed increase in the building of social housing) is presented in eight key points, listed in order of perceived importance; on the back, there are three arguments for and three arguments against the proposal.
At first reading, it’s not clear how different or more digestible the information is compared with what’s sent out by federal authorities, aside from the fact that unlike in the government’s package, there is no recommendation on how to vote. (Official materials include the position of parliament and government on each issue).
Demoscan project leader Nenad Stojanović says however that the main added value is that the document presents a “filtering” and “prioritising” of information – ultimately giving an overview of the most pertinent points as seen through the eyes of 20 “normal” citizens.
He also reckons that the process was as important as the output.
By selecting the participants randomly and representatively, the project included social groups not normally involved in the political debate, he says. Four days of research and deliberation were like a “democracy school”, teaching them about the functioning of previously distant institutions….(More)”.