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E-voting is the only means by which Swiss Abroad can exercise their political rights.

Since 1 July 1992, Swiss Abroad have been able to vote by post at the federal level. Unfortunately, the voting papers often reach them too late or in the wrong language. Consequently, the Organisation of the Swiss Abroad has been campaigning for e-voting for several years now.

First pilot trials

In 2002, e-voting was introduced for the first time in the form of pilot projects. This test phase was increasingly extended over the following years so that by June 2019 it was possible to vote and take part in elections via e-voting in ten different cantons (AG, BE, BS, FR, GE, LU, NE, SG, TG and VD). Several different systems were in use. The Zurich Consortium Vote électronique system was discontinued in 2015 leaving the Geneva cantonal system and that used by Swiss Post. Analyses show that on average more than half of voters vote electronically from the outset if they have the possibility to do so.

Redesign of trial phase

Since the Geneva cantonal and Swiss Post systems were discontinued in 2019, there is unfortunately no possibility at present to vote or take part in elections by e-voting in any of the cantons. As announed on 21 December 2020, the Federal Council launches redesign of e-voting trials. The cantons are again to be permitted to undertake limited trials with online voting using fully verifiable systems. This is the declared aim of the Federal Council, which on 18 December issued a decision on the redesign of e-voting trials. More precise security requirements, increased transparency, closer cooperation with independent experts and effective auditing on behalf of the Confederation will all contribute to ensuring the security of e-voting. There will be a consultation procedure on amending the statutory bases in 2021.

On 25 May 2022, the Federal Council enacted the partially revised Ordinance on Political Rights (PoRO). The Federal Council also took note of the fact that the totally revised Federal Chancellery Ordinance on Electronic Voting (OEV) comes into force on the same dateThe new legislation will apply from 1 July 2022 and will once again enable the cantons to offer e-voting on a trial basis.

Swiss Post e-voting system

On 5 July 2021, the Federal Chancellery started the independent review of the Post’s e-Voting system. Experts from science and industry were commissioned to carry out the review. Their work is based around four areas: the system’s cryptographic protocol, the software being used, the infrastructure and operation at the Post, as well as an intrusion test to which the system must be subjected.

The initial results were published by the Federal Chancellery on 20 April 2022. These indicate that the Post’s e-Voting system has been improved since 2019, while further improvements are also required, such as to the cryptographic protocol and verifiability with the preservation of voting secrecy. The Post must implement the improvements and the system will then be subjected to another independent review. The focus is upon meeting the security requirements for the use of e-Voting systems. These are defined in the revised legal bases. By mid-2022, the finalised Ordinance on Political Rights (VPR) and the Federal Chancellery Ordinance on Electronic Voting (VEleS) will be submitted to the Federal Council for enactment and are to be implemented by the Federal Chancellery.

The cantons are responsible for conducting the elections. As soon as the new legal bases and the final reports of the independent reviewer are available, the cantons can apply to the Federal Council for an initial licence to use the new e-Voting system for the federal elections.

For several years, the Organisation of the Swiss Abroad, SwissCommunity, has tried through different initiatives to introduce e-voting for Swiss citizens abroad. In 2018, it also filed a petition to this end.

A short summary of the different activities and initiatives of SwissCommunity in this regard can be found in the following factsheet.

E-voting factsheet