Swiss e-voting poised for expanded roll-out

E-voting in Switzerland has been running on a limited pilot scale up until now Keystone

The Swiss authorities are preparing to expand e-voting to more cantons, which would give more citizens the chance to cast their votes electronically. The government on Wednesday said the system should be expanded from its test phase.

This content was published on April 5, 2017

Until now, 14 cantons have at various times allowed Swiss living abroad to vote electronically. Three cantons (Neuchâtel, Geneva and Basel City) have operated e-voting systems for Swiss-based citizens. Up to two-thirds of citizens who have been eligible to vote electronically have grabbed the opportunity, proving that strong demand exists, the government said.

The current law places a maximum 10% limit of electronic votes for referendums and 30% for constitutional amendments.

Federal Chancellor Walter Thurnherr said it was now time for electronic ballots to become part of the voting process. The goal is for at least two-thirds of Switzerland’s 26 cantons to have e-voting in place by 2019.

At present, Swiss Post and the canton of Geneva operate e-voting systems that could be used as viable national platforms.

The government said it would now get to work easing the administrative process for further cantons to take on e-voting. Parliament will also be called upon to amend laws to allow digital voting to roll-out in greater depth. This would include regulating the source code – the system that registers and processes individual votes on the electronic system.

Although e-voting is part of Switzerland’s official e-government strategy, casting votes electronically will for the time being remain to be on a voluntary basis, Thurnherr added.

A lack of finances, however, has forced the government to drop its e-collecting project to allow citizens to add their signatures electronically to referendums and people’s initiatives. Under the Swiss system of direct democracy, both instruments need a certain number of signatures before they can come to vote.

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