Swiss abroad in a hurry for hi-tech vote
Swiss living abroad would be better connected to their homeland if they had access to e-voting, according to the Organisation of the Swiss Abroad (OSA).
The organisation is calling for e-voting to be extended worldwide as soon as possible following a successful pilot project in cantons Zurich and Neuchâtel in November.
Internet voting was first trialled in 2003 in Anières near Geneva, while residents in Bülach, canton Zurich, were able to cast votes using mobile phones in October.
SMS voting was repeated this month again in Bülach and also in nearby Bertschikon and Schlieren, as well as in Neuchâtel.
But those registered in these areas who currently live abroad were not able to take part in the trials and had to use the traditional postal ballot.
The federal authorities will receive a report on the project by June next year, but it could take years to decide whether to roll it out nationally and to include the Swiss abroad.
"We have been told e-voting will probably not be generally available before 2010, but we would like it to happen quicker than that," OSA communications director Marc Demierre told swissinfo.
"We will try to influence this process to speed it up. The postal voting system works more or less properly at the moment, but voting by email or SMS could avoid practical problems such as the post getting delayed.
"For the Swiss living abroad, voting is an important way of keeping in touch with Switzerland. They usually vote in higher numbers on international issues, such as relations with the European Union."
Daniel Braendli, who heads the e-voting project in the Federal Chancellery, told swissinfo that a final decision could be made in two years' time. First there has to be debate to consider issues such as who finances e-voting, reliability of technology and the risk of electoral fraud.
But Braendli does not believe there will be any technical difficulties preventing Swiss expats from using the system.
"Swiss people living abroad could not use e-voting in the tests because we thought it could cause some injustice," he said. "We could not give a Bülach-registered voter living in a foreign country the right to vote by SMS and not a voter registered elsewhere."
"At the moment SMS voters have to dial a short local number, but there should be no problem establishing an international number to dial," he added.
"The Swiss living abroad have asked us for e-voting and, of course, this would be of enormous benefit to them."
swissinfo, Matthew Allen
There are some 630,000 Swiss living abroad with about 100,000 registered to vote in Switzerland.
Bülach has applied to extend e-voting to its council elections in April.
A report on the pilot project will be presented to the federal authorities by June next year.
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