Directorate General of Democracy and
DIRECTORATE OF DEMOCRATIC INSTITUTIONS
Project “Good Governance in the Information Society”
Strasbourg, 15 November 2010
Third meeting to review developments in the field of e-voting since the adoption of Recommendation Rec(2004)11 on legal, operational and technical standards for e-voting
Palais de l’Europe, Strasbourg
16-17 November 2010
Interim report on e-voting in Switzerland
Evolution of e-voting projects in Switzerland between 2008 and 2010 and outlook
Contribution by Switzerland
1. Introduction The present interim report follows on from the interim reports submitted to the Council of Europe during the meetings on e-voting held in November 2006 (Strasbourg) and October 2008 (Madrid).
The 2006 interim report presented the pilot schemes conducted over five federal referendums in 2004 and 2005, as well as their evaluation by the federal government1. The 2008 report highlighted the adoption of the necessary legal amendments to allow the progressive introduction of e-voting in the cantons by the federal parliament in March 2007 (entered into force on January 1st 2008). The centralization/harmonization of electoral registers of Swiss abroad which followed has provided the prerequisite to allow Swiss abroad (the ones with the greatest interest in e-voting) to vote over internet.
In 2009 - 2010 the number of cantons authorized to conduct e-voting trials has notably increased. In addition to the three pilot cantons which own and operate each an e-voting system, nine other cantons are currently2 conducting e-voting trials. Thanks to inter-cantonal cooperation, the Swiss abroad of these nine cantons3 vote on dedicated websites operated by one of the existing systems4.
E-voting trials during federal votes are possible upon authorization by the federal Government. Some 5% of the federal electoral body can currently vote over internet.
2. Priority to Swiss abroad The ongoing extension of e-voting focuses primarily on offering this additional channel to Swiss abroad who suffer from postal delays. Some 120'000 Swiss abroad have registered to exercise their political rights in a canton/commune in Switzerland. Almost 90% of them live in EU and Wassenaar Arrangement States5 and could be authorized to vote via internet. The nine cantons who recently introduced e-voting are offering this new channel initially to Swiss abroad. Starting with such a relatively small group of electors allows the cantons to address existing needs and offers them the opportunity to get familiar with this new voting channel. Based on such experience cantons prepare to take future decisions on the extension of e-voting to resident voters.
By the end of 2012 half of the 120'000 Swiss abroad registered to vote would be able to do so via internet.
3. Innovative inter-cantonal cooperation The present e-voting extension is made possible thanks to innovating inter-cantonal cooperation. The three pilot cantons (Geneva, Zurich and Neuchâtel) who own and operate each an e-voting system and who have a relatively long experience with e-voting, offer their expertise as well as the possibility of using their e-voting systems to other cantons. Thus, the cantons without e-voting system can test internet voting in a sure and economical way. Currently ten cantons profit from this possibility and have signed the necessary agreements (nine of them are already conducting trials; canton Bern will start trials in 2011). Other cantons could join soon. The greatest majority of the 120’000 Swiss abroad registered to vote would be able to make internet voting towards 2015.
4. Multilingual e-voting systems The federal Constitution guarantees each voter the right to vote and elect in her own language (the national languages being German, French, Italian, and Romansh). In traditional voting channels (polling station and postal voting), cantons send out voting material in the cantonal official language/s. Upon request, they supply voting material in other national languages. The existing e-voting systems offer the possibility to vote/elect in the four national languages. The voter can not only choose her preferred language – she can easily switch from one language to another at any time during the voting procedure. Cantons make the necessary programming to offer multilingual e-voting systems; the Federal Chancellery provides the necessary translations in the four national languages.
5. Conclusions and outlook In addition to Swiss abroad, the sight-impaired are the other group with a strong interest in e-voting. Two cantons are studying appropriate solutions for sight-impaired.
On the eve of next year’s federal elections (23 October 2011), a few cantons have shown interest in offering, at this occasion, internet voting to their Swiss abroad. It would be the first time internet voting would be tried during national elections. The interested cantons and the projects’ accompanying groups are currently preparing such tests. In addition to their complexity, some election procedures differ from canton to canton. The biggest challenge on which e-voting systems are currently working is to take into account cantonal specificities and adapt e-voting systems to national elections.
The control (e.g. certification) and transparency (e.g. observation) of e-voting systems and procedures are the other important issues on the e-voting agenda of cantons and Federal Chancellery. In cooperation with academic research, some internet voting aspects are being studied more closely. One of them is “how to vote surely from the private (unsure) computer”; results are expected in 2013.
6. Recent trials during federal popular votes (Nov. 2008 – Sept. 2010) Summary of binding internet-voting trials held during federal popular votes from November 2008 to September 2010.
*GU: * Users of the electronic authority portal (‘Guichet Unique’).
1 Federal Gazette (Feuille fédérale) 2006 5205; www.admin.ch/ch/f/ff/2006/5205.pdf.
2 Geneva, Neuchâtel, Zurich as well as Aargau, Basel Stadt, Fribourg, Graubünden, Luzern, St. Gallen, Schaffhausen, Solothurn und Thurgau have been authorized by the federal Government to conduct e-voting binding trials during the 28 November 2010 federal votes. About 190'000 electors can use e-voting at this occasion.
3 Basel Stadt conducts e-voting trials since November 2009. Fribourg, St. Gallen and Solothurn have started to test this new channel in September 2010. Aargau, Graubünden, Luzern, Schaffhausen and Thurgau make a first binding trial in November 2010.
4 Basel Stadt, Luzern and Bern cooperate with Geneva; Aargau, Fribourg, Graubünden, St. Gallen, Schaffhausen, Solothurn and Thurgau use a copy of the e-voting system of Zurich.
5 Wassenaar Arrangement of 19 December 1995/12 Mai 1996 on export controls for conventional arms and dual-use goods and technologies, www.wassenaar.org . The Arrangement regulates the use of cryptography, a dual use technology. The participating states allow the exchange of encrypted communications used in internet voting.
6 Bubikon was also authorized but, due to a problem with printing of voting material, could not conduct an e-voting trial on February 8, 2009.