Ready for the next departure ?
E-collecting is the next step in the digitization process of political rights. It will follow the successful introduction of e-voting and e-election. That’s what the federal Council said in its second report on e-voting in May 2006. But it also said that the use of the digital signature must be sufficiently widespread before such a project is launched. As this was not the case up to now, e-collecting was not an issue until recently.
Last October, after three referendum demands failed shortly to succeed, e-collecting came suddenly under discussion. The referendum organizers pointed to delays on the side of local authorities in charge of validating signatures as the main cause for the failure to succeed. There was talk of e-collecting which would significantly shorten signature controls thus preventing complications as those that arose with the three referendum demands. The federal Parliament was quick to react: a motion from the Political Institutions Commission of the bigger chamber of Parliament asked for clarifying deadlines for communes to verify signatures. It was agreed that this issue will be dealt in the frame of the partial modification of the federal law on political rights due to take place soon.
E-collecting was no further discussed in Parliament this time. Still its exploration is part of the mandate that the federal Council has received to modernize political rights. Due to a massive increase in initiative and referendum demands in the past few years, pressure is high on communes to control an increasing number of signatures within very short time. Clarifying deadlines for controlling signatures is one thing – but it still does not provide a solution with respect to the problem of finding the necessary resources to deal with punctual spikes of signature control activity. In a way or another e-collecting may come back under discussion soon, not least if the European Citizen Initiative, which is based on signature-collecting via Internet, proves to be successful. To be checked.
In a different context, 2012 saw the first important e-petition, from the lobby of the Swiss abroad. By the way, it asked for a total liberalization of internet voting. In yet another context, referendum and initiative campaigners continued to be active on internet, proposing on their websites signature forms for download. Such internet-based political rights activity will certainly continue and increase in 2013 as well.