Albert Hirschman Centre on Democracy
11 October 2021

The Swiss democratic system from an American perspective

AHCD Executive Director Christine Lutringer asks Gabriel Sterling, the elections manager for the state of Georgia, to share his thoughts about Swiss democracy from an American perspective.

On the occasion of the visit of Gabriel Sterling, elections manager for the U.S. state of Georgia, to the Graduate Institute on October 5th, AHCD Executive Director Christine Lutringer engaged him in a productive discussion comparing U.S. and Swiss democratic systems.

Sterling had given the keynote lecture of the 2021 Democracy Week the previous night, an event co-organised by the Geneva Chancellery of State, the Albert Hirschman Centre on Democracy and the University of Geneva. He is known for having been propelled to fame during the 2020 U.S. elections after he called out former President Donald Trump to protect the integrity of Georgia’s electoral system.

“One of the amazing things about the Swiss is that you structurally have built a system to reach consensus. The American system is very much combative,” Sterling began in his interview, citing “the multi-member executive, which is something unheard of in the United States and really for most of the world” in the process. He also admired the security system put in place in Switzerland around several—including online—voting practices, which protects it from nefarious influences. This system, he however noted, “might not be as practical in other places” where the culture is different.

This conversation with Christine Lutringer followed a practice-oriented workshop with Gabriel Sterling co-organised by the Albert Hirschman Centre on Democracy and the Geneva Chancellery of State. Participants included high-level electoral officials for several Swiss cantons working in the areas of election monitoring, referendums, and the promotion of political rights, as well as Graduate Institute faculty, PhD researchers and students working on democracy. The workshop focused on several practical aspects related to the management of elections, in particular the operation and management of postal voting, the functioning of electoral commissions, legal issues and the relationship with the citizenry.

Gabriel Sterling on Swiss democracy

Gabriel Sterling is the Chief Operating Officer/Chief Financial Officer at Georgia Secretary of State. After graduating from Riverwood International Charter School and the University of Georgia, he began working in Republican Party politics as a volunteer. In 1998, he ran for the Georgia House of Representatives. He was elected to the Sandy Springs City Council, taking office in 2011. In 2019 Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger appointed him the COO of the Secretary of State's office after winning the 2018 election. Since 2021, Gabriel Sterling is also Chairman of the committee to review the Charter for the City of Sandy Springs to make recommendations to the Legislature.