The government wants to enshrine electronic voting in Swiss law as an alternative to paper ballots in elections and votes.
Based on an expert report, e-voting can be considered as a secure and reliable method, according Federal Chancellor Walter Thurnherr.
“The time is right for a broad discussion on e-voting and to take an informed decision. There are enough advantages, notably for the about 10% Swiss voters who live abroad,” he told a news conference on Wednesday.
Over the past 15 years, more than 200 trials with e-voting have been carried out at nationwide and cantonal levels. A limited number of registered Swiss have also been able to participate in the trials.
The proposal foresees that e-voting should become an option, but not an obligation, for the cantons which are free to choose an e-voting system. Currently, two certified systems are in use.
The Federal Chancelleryexternal link, which oversees voting issues, has been mandated to present detailed proposals later this year, which will be subject to a consultation procedure among political parties, institutions and the cantons.
Parliament is to discuss the government plans within the next two years.
However, critics argue the electronic voting channel is not secure as hackers could try to tamper with the system to rig the outcome of votes.
Last year, the government decided in principle to expand e-voting options across the country, putting in place e-voting in at least 18 of the country’s 26 cantons by October 2019.
The Organisation of the Swiss Abroadexternal link (OSA) wants all registered Swiss expats to be able to use the e-vote option in next year’s parliamentary elections. It has welcomed Wednesday’s decision.
OSA director Ariane Rustichelli welcomed Wednesday’s decision.
“It shows the political intention to push ahead with e-voting. It’s a tool that many people have been familiar with, be it the Swiss Abroad community, or people in Switzerland. No doubt it will become more important in the future,” she said.
Rustichelli also points out that the younger generation has grown up in a digitialised world.
She added the OSA has full confidence in the Federal Chancellery to address security issues, raised by some data protection experts and IT specialists, about e-voting.
Politicians on the right and left have warned that Switzerland’s political system could be undermined.
“The credibility of direct democracy with the options of postal votes or by going to ballot stations is weakened,” the Swiss People’s Party said.
Moves are underway in parliament to limit or block the introduction of e-voting. Critics say they are also considering launching a people’s initiative to ban e-voting altogether.
swissinfo.ch/urs with additional input Sonia Fenazzi