E-voting for swiss abroad: a joint project between the confederation and the cantons
ISSN der Zeitschrift
5th International Conference on Electronic Voting 2012 (EVOTE2012)
Regular Research Papers
Gesellschaft für Informatik e.V.
The ever-increasing number of expatriates has fed the political debate on the voting rights of Swiss abroad over the last two decades. More than the right to vote itself, the effective exercise of voting rights has become a much-discussed issue. Swiss expatriates are able to vote at the federal level, which means they are invited to vote in popular votes and referendums up to four times a year and in elections every four years. They vote mainly by post and are faced with delays inherent to this method of voting and are sometimes disenfranchised as a result. Internet voting considerably accelerates the return of the ballot. Its introduction has been one of the main demands of Swiss living abroad. In parallel, the federal and cantonal authorities have planned to gradually and pragmatically adapt direct democracy instruments and voting methods to the digital environment in a prudent and long-term process. Internet voting was launched at the beginning of the 21st century and is one of the key projects of the Confederation's e-government strategy. Three Internet voting systems have been developed so far by the cantons of Zurich, Neuchâtel, and Geneva. Internet voting was first offered to Swiss expats in June 2008. For the latest federal elections on February 13, 2011, some 55,000 Swiss abroad had the possibility to vote via Internet; on the federal elections on October 23, 2011, some 22,000 Swiss abroad registered in four cantons took part in the very first Internet voting trial during a federal election. Half of Swiss cantons have now introduced Internet voting, mainly for citizens abroad. While it is too early to draw conclusions on whether Internet voting fosters participation of expatriates in Swiss political life, recent experience clearly shows that Internet voting is well accepted. The success of the Swiss model of the introduction of e- voting can be explained with the following elements: joint strategic planning (the roadmap), a good inter-cantonal cooperation with hosting solutions, and a gradual expansion, which puts security at the center of efforts.