Parliament has thrown out attempts to stall the permanent introduction of electronic voting – a decision welcomed by the Organisation of the Swiss Abroad (OSA).
Two proposals by representatives of right and leftwing parties cited data security concerns, including cyberattacks, and were aimed at effectively blocking plans by the government to conclude more than 15 years of trials and enshrine e-voting in law as a third option - besides going to the polls and the postal vote.
The House of Representatives earlier this week rejected the proposals by parliamentarians of the Swiss People’s Party and the Greens, thereby refusing to draft a bill for discussion.
However, plans are afoot to launch a people’s initiative in the near future, further threatening the hopes of the OSA, which represents the interests of the more than 750,000 Swiss living around the world.
The government is due to present details of a draft bill in the next few months and parliament could discuss the plans by 2020.
OSA director Ariane Rustichelli has welcomed the recent parliamentary decision. She agrees that security issues are indeed crucial.
“We are not IT specialists, but we have confidence in the Federal Chancellery to assure e-voting is secure,” she told swissinfo.ch.
Rustichelli says many expatriate Swiss would benefit from the e-vote option as they often receive their ballot papers too late by post to participate in a vote.
The OSA recently launched a petition, calling on the government to make e-voting available for the whole Swiss Abroad community by 2021.
The non-binding online petition, which hopes to collect at least 10,000 signatures by the end of November, has already been signed by more than 6,000 people, according to Rustichelli.
For the nationwide votes on 23 September, nine of Switzerland’s 26 cantons take part in ongoing trials with e-voting. In Bern, Lucerne, Aargau and Thurgau only registered expatriate Swiss can vote online.
In other cantons, a limited number of resident Swiss is also eligible to use e-voting.
Parliament also had good news for the Swiss Abroad when the House of Representatives reversed a decision making the payments of supplementary benefits conditional on contributions to the Swiss old age pension scheme for at least ten years.
Neither the Senate, nor the government wanted such a limit.
The OSA argued such a limit was discriminatory for many expatriate Swiss.
swissinfo.ch/urs with input by Katy Romy