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Electronic voting

Studies have shown that electronic voting is one of the electronic government services which is most in demand by the general public. The aim of the Confederation and the cantons is to introduce electronic voting nationwide.

Target state of the strategic project

With electronic voting, the culture and traditions of political rights are being transferred into the digital age. Electronic voting is an investment by the Confederation and the cantons to serve the population which will lead to quality improvements. The voting procedure will be simplified and the casting of invalid votes will be prevented.

Federal structure of political rights in Switzerland

The Confederation regulates the exercise of political rights in federal matters. The cantons are responsible for the implementation of federal elections and are thus the actual project managers. The Federal Chancellery (FCh) supports the cantons in the introduction and coordinates the project at national level. However, the cantons decide whether, when and with which system electronic voting is offered.

In April 2017, the Swiss Conference of Cantonal Chancellors adopted a new planning tool for the introduction of electronic voting. In a memorandum of understanding (MoU), the Confederation and the cantons commit themselves to six strategic objectives, including the transition to regular operations and the creation of a legal framework for dematerialising voting.

Strategy of the Confederation and cantons

When electronic voting is introduced, it is the principle of «security before speed» which applies. In 2013, in its third report on electronic voting, the Federal Council formulated the strategy for introducing and extending the electronic voting channel and defined new security requirements. Based on this, the legal foundations were amended. In April 2017, the Federal Council decided on the next steps for the widespread introduction of electronic voting. The focus is on measures in the area of transparency (disclosure of the source code) and in particular the transfer of electronic voting from the current trial phase to regular operation.

During its meeting on 27 June 2018, the Federal Council instructed the Federal Chancellery to prepare a consultation draft so that electronic voting can be established as the third regular voting channel. Initiation of the consultation on the amendment of the Federal Act on Political Rights (PRA) is planned for the second half of 2018.

Parameters of the planned draft

In preparing the consultation draft, the Federal Chancellery should draw on the results of the electronic voting expert group which advised on the parameters of regular operation and implementing dematerialisation in electronic voting between August 2017 and March 2018. The group of experts' final report was published on 27 June 2018.

In the group of experts' view, electronic voting can be developed as a secure and trustworthy voting channel. The high security requirements which are already in force today should be maintained in regular operation and raised from ordinance to statutory level. The cantons should continue to be able to choose their own electronic voting systems. In future, their use will require approval from the Federal Council. However, the procedure should be designed so as to ease the administrative burden on the cantons.

There should be no future obligation on the cantons to introduce electronic voting. Voters should maintain the freedom to choose whether they vote electronically, by post or in person at the ballot box. The cantons should be given leeway as to how this freedom of choice is designed.

Within the framework of the consultation draft, the possibility of reducing paper use in electronic voting is also planned for. Accordingly, voters could explicitly request that in future they only receive the voting certificate with the necessary security codes for electronic voting by post. «Dematerialisation» comes in response to one of the cantons' concerns.

Media release form the Federal Council, 27.06.2017 (in German)

Measures supported in the strategic plan

Measure/deliverable Deadline
Support for the implementation of the security requirements and for the certification of systems with regard to extending the authorised electorate (50-100%). 31.12.2019
Support measures to foster confidence in electronic voting. 31.12.2019
Assessment of the 2012–2017 trial period, whereby the implementation of the new security requirements will be evaluated. 31.12.2019
Cantonal projects to implement electronic voting will be reviewed on an annual basis and will be supported in line with the financing concept of the Federal Chancellery. 31.12.2019

Implementation status of electronic voting

Electronic voting in Switzerland is currently being piloted. Since 2004, in over 200 successful trials, a total of 14 cantons have now made electronic voting possible for a number of their voters. Electronic voting is currently offered in ten cantons. In five cantons (FR, BS, SG, NE, GE) both Swiss voters resident abroad and those resident in Switzerland are allowed to participate in the trials, whilst in five cantons (BE, LU, AG, TG, VD) only voters resident abroad are able to vote electronically. The majority of these cantons plan, in the medium term, to extend the electronic voting channel to a larger section of the electorate resident in Switzerland. Some other cantons intend to introduce electronic voting in the coming months or years.

Organisation responsible for project

Swiss Federal Chancellery, Political Rights Section

Contact person: Mirjam Hostettler

Contact: mirjam.hostettler(at)bk.admin.ch,  +41 58 467 21 64