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Aarau Stadtidee 2023

Key facts
CityAarau, Switzerland (wikipedia, maps)
Date of election2023-06-25
BudgetCHF 50 000
Number of voters1800
Number of projects on the ballot33
Number of winning projects17
Voting ruleMethod of Equal Shares
Voting input formatDistribute 10 points to at least 3 different projects
Voting rule details"Add1" completion

Aarau used the Method of Equal Shares for the city's first participatory budget in 2023. The city was supported by an academic collaboration with the University of Fribourg, the University of Leeds and ETH Zurich. The city performed extensive public outreach on their website and during workshops to explain the innovative voting method to voters and to project proposers, with an emphasis on the idea that more economical projects would need fewer votes to win.

The city decided to use an input format that allowed voters to make finer distinctions than approval voting allows: Each voter could distribute 10 points across projects, allowing them to indicate stronger support for some projects over others. The city imposed a requirement that at least 3 different projects would need to receive at least 1 point for the vote to count. Voting was done online using the Stanford Participatory Budgeting Platform. 33 projects were put up for voting.

The Method of Equal Shares selected 17 projects for funding. The detailed results are available on the city's website. In this election, most winning projects had a high ratio of points to cost, and this meant that mostly cheaper projects were selected (though this does not always occur with the Method of Equal Shares). When comparing the results to the hypothetical results of using the standard method (which would select the projects with the highest point count), the city found that the Method of Equal Shares selected projects from all city districts, while the standard method would have only selected city-wide projects and projects from the central district, as can be seen in the following graphic adapted from one produced by Joshua C. Yang.