Internet Voting

Evaluating the past, preparing the future

Can e-voting increase electoral participation?

Can e-voting increase electoral participation? (Photo credit: European Parliament)

Internet voting continues to be the driving force in electoral practice digitization. Since May 2006 when the federal Government (federal Council) published its second report on internet voting recommending its gradual introduction, trials with binding results have taken place uninterruptedly. In 2012 alone Internet voting was used 48 times. That is 12 cantons (Zurich having decided to make a brake) doing internet voting at all four federal votes that took place last year. More internet voting was experienced at other, exclusively cantonal, voting days. Almost half of the cantons now propose Internet voting as a third, additional voting channel, initially to their expatriates. The term “trials” implies that Internet voting is not liberalized and cantons need an authorization from the federal Council to use it during federal votes. Its use is also restricted to a maximum 30% of the cantonal electorate.

As announced in its strategic document (Roadmap) of 2011 and reiterated at several occasions, the federal Chancellery, the body responsible for internet voting supervision and coordination at federal level, has prepared a third report on internet voting that evaluates its use since 2006 and identifies solutions for its future development. It also called a group of specialists to elaborate technical criteria for developing internet voting systems of “second generation” which could be allowed to offer internet voting to a greater share of the electorate. The results produced by the group will be part of the report.

In 2013, probably by the middle of the year, we will thus see the publication of the federal Council’s third report on e-voting. The report is expected to be accompanied by a proposal to modify the existing legislation on e-voting. The new legislation should clarify the technical conditions under which internet voting can obtain federal authorization thus allowing cantons to better plan its future development. The report and the accompanying legislation will then be examined by Parliament.

Another landmark is the expected publication in 2013 of a study on how to vote securely from an insecure platform (private computer). The study, commissioned by the federal Chancellery, is conducted as part of a PhD program at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich. The results may reinforce the trend towards the introduction of verifiability in Internet voting.


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