e-Voting: Federal Council to reframe trial phase and delay introduction as a regular voting channel
Bern, 27.06.2019 - At its meeting on 26 June, the Federal Council decided to provisionally forgo introducing electronic voting into regular operation. In the consultation on the planned amendment to the Political Rights Act, the majority of respondents generally expressed support for e-voting, but considered its introduction into regular operation to be premature. In addition, the Federal Council commissioned the Federal Chancellery to amend the general conditions for future trials.
Since 2004 a total of 15 cantons have carried out over 300 trials using electronic voting. In April 2017 the Federal Council commissioned the Federal Chancellery to prepare a statutory amendment on the introduction of electronic voting into regular operation. In December 2018 the Federal Council opened consultation proceedings on that amendment to the Political Rights Act. The partial revision of the Political Rights Act would have the effect of making e-voting the third regular voting channel. The intention would be to simplify the authorisation procedure for the cantons and at the same time regulate the most important requirements in law, in particular the verifiability of votes cast and how the result is reached, the transparency of the systems and accessibility. The cantons would still be free to decide whether to introduce electronic voting even after it comes into regular operation.
The consultation revealed that a clear majority of the cantons and political parties support the introduction of e-voting in principle. The Conference of Cantonal Governments and 19 cantons support the introduction of e-voting into regular operation. However, the political parties which support e-voting in principle consider that now is not the right time to take that step. The Federal Council has therefore decided not to proceed with the partial revision of the Political Rights Act at the present time.
The Federal Council’s decision takes into account developments in recent months. The Canton of Geneva announced in November 2018 that it was stopping the development of its e-voting system and that it would not be using it in votes beyond February 2020. In February of this year Swiss Post published the source code for its fully verifiable system and conducted a public intrusion test. After test participants discovered serious flaws in the system’s source code, the Federal Chancellery announced a review at the end of March.
Report by end of 2020
At its meeting on 26 June, the Federal Council also commissioned the Federal Chancellery to work with the cantons to redesign the way in which the trials are operated, and to present the results in a report by the end of 2020. The aim is to establish stable trial operations using the latest generation of systems. Other measures include extending independent audits, increasing transparency and trust, and greater involvement of scientific specialists. Existing requirements and processes are also to be reviewed.
As was the case in 2015, the Federal Council will decide on applications to use electronic voting in the National Council elections of 20 October in August.
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