The Political Rights Section is responsible for ensuring that political rights (federal popular initiatives, optional referendums) are enacted, for preparing for federal ballots (popular votes and National Council elections) and for coordinating the introduction of electronic voting by the cantons (Vote électronique). It is also responsible for preparing and implementing relevant legislative decrees (Federal Act on Political Rights, Ordinance on Political Rights, Federal Chancellery Ordinance on Electronic Voting and various circulars) and ensuring that cantonal implementing provisions accord with federal law.
The tasks of the section on popular initiatives and optional referendums include advising the relevant committees, preparing a preliminary report for the Federal Chancellor on whether popular initiatives meet the formal requirements, receiving and checking the certified signatures and ascertaining whether a request for an initiative or referendum is successful. The Section also monitors compliance with the statutory time limits, advises the government departments and parliamentary commissions on procedural matters, and monitors them up to the conclusion of the parliamentary consultation. It also receives petitions to the Federal Council and assigns them to the relevant departments.
It runs a comprehensive, publicly accessible database on political rights at federal level.
The section is also responsible for planning and preparing for federal votes and elections to the National Council. For the latter, the section prepares the Federal Council ordinance on the distribution of the seats among the cantons and checks that the cantons’ candidate lists do not contain double candidacies. In the case of federal votes, it prepares motions addressed to the Federal Council to determine the individual proposals. Furthermore, it draws up the Federal Council's instructions to the cantons for each federal ballot. If a complaint is made, it prepares the Chancellery’s statement for the Federal Supreme Court and drafts the decree validating the ballot, and in the case of National Council elections, the Federal Council’s report to the newly elected council.
In addition, the section maintains the Register of Political Parties.
The Confederation and the cantons are jointly promoting the digitalisation of political rights in the Vote électronique project. The aim is to introduce electronic voting (e-voting) in elections and votes throughout Switzerland. The cantons are the actual project managers. They decide when and in what stages they will introduce e-voting. The section actively supports the cantons in all legal, organisational and technical matters and coordinates the project at national level.