Counting of (internet) voting results postponed
Canton Neuchâtel had quite a special election today. For the first time in Switzerland a general election of a cantonal parliament was held with internet voting as a third voting channel. Internet voting is one of the online services proposed by the web portal of Neuchâtel cantonal authorities Guichetunique.ch. Another première with respect to internet voting was the fact that the system had to handle two different kinds of political elections (initially) scheduled to take place at the same time: in addition to parliamentary elections, the cantonal government was also to be elected on 14 April.
One of the candidates to the cantonal Government election died 11 days before the election day. Both elections were ongoing. Pursuant to cantonal legislation, the election of the Government was postponed on 28 April. Political parties asked for the election of the Parliament to be postponed as well. This was not possible according to the Government, which opted for the following solution: the counting for the Parliamentary election was to be done on the 28th of April, at the same time as the counting of Government elections. The parties were apparently happy with the solution. In the meanwhile the results would be sealed. So what makes today’s election really special is the fact that the election results will not be known before two weeks time.
Today, after the election closed (at 12:00), cantonal police toured the 37 communes and sealed all ballot boxes containing the votes. They will be opened and counted on the 28th of April. In the meanwhile they’ll be kept in a safe place by the communes. This is also the case for internet votes. The electoral commission which holds the keys of the electronic ballot box met today to retrieve the results from the internet voting server, and transfer them to the dedicated off-line computer, permanently guarded by the cantonal police and which is used at each vote/election for all offline operations such as mixing, decrypting and counting of the votes. So internet voting results will be protected by the police and finally counted on 28 of April as well.
Critics questioned the use of measures of another age (police protection) in the internet voting context. Some proposed the internet publication of encrypted votes so as to be sure that only these ones will be counted on April 28th.
The internet voting system of Neuchâtel includes end-to-end encryption of the votes. The official observation body, the electoral commission, composed of representatives of both the right and the left of the cantonal parliament, plays a special role in internet voting: it holds part of the keys necessary to initiate internet voting (beginning of the vote) and to decrypt the votes (end of the vote).