Casting votes on the Internet

Switzerland & the Future of Elections

The Future of Democracy, HIR Spring Issue 2013

The Future of Democracy, HIR Spring Issue 2013

The spring 2013 issue of the Harvard International Review features an article on the Swiss internet voting experience, by Alexander H. Trechsel and Urs Gasser. Published before the latest developments of last Summer (Report of the federal Government, proposed modifications of the legislation), the article presents a brief history of Internet voting in Switzerland and three high-level observations of particular interest to an international audience. The authors conclude that first, the feasibility of Internet voting and its effects cannot be assessed in isolation from the institutional context. Second, to be successful, the introduction of Internet voting must be treated as a process rather than an abrupt and potentially disruptive event. Third, the seemingly banal but often underestimated importance of the political will and cross-partisan support for the introduction of Internet voting is essential for its success.

Here the three high-level observations:

Observation 1: The Swiss case demonstrates the benefits of a coordinated, but decentralized and bottom-up approach to the introduction of Internet voting.

Observation 2: It is too early to assess the impact of Internet voting on participation – but initial numbers from Switzerland do not give reason for enthusiasm.

Observation 3: Security and transparency issues remain the key challenges of Swiss Internet voting systems.

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