A first-time experiment in allowing Swiss citizens to cast their votes online for the Council of the Swiss Abroad has proven to be popular in two countries.
Voters were enthusiastic about the pilot project, which relies on an e-voting system from the canton of Geneva to pick delegates to the "parliament of the Fifth Switzerland", a news media term for the councilexternal link because it represents Swiss expatriates' interests before authorities and public opinion in Switzerland. In June, Swiss living in Australia and Mexico could vote electronically for council delegates for the first time.
“E-voting is the future. We were also able to reach more voters this way,” Carmen Trochsler writes to us from Adelaide. The delegate of the Council of the Swiss Abroad, who achieved top results in the elections, sums up what is actually revolutionary about this pilot project. This time around, all Swiss living abroad, who had given their email address to the embassy, were able to vote.
“Yes, this is a small revolution for the Organisation for the Swiss Abroad (OSA)”, says OSA director Sarah Mastantuoni. “Until now, the delegates were voted via umbrella organisations, wherever they existed; by Swiss associations or directly by the council in case they were no Swiss associations in the relevant country.” Mastantuoni is convinced that a bigger voter base would also mean a broader democratic legitimacy for the delegates.
Insufficient postal service
Jörg Wiedenbach, headmaster of the Swiss school, wrote to us from Mexico: “The Mexican postal service is pretty poor. We never get the voting material in time, which means we have practically missed every federal popular vote. The option of e-voting in the CSA elections has solved this problem.”
Voting with the Geneva system
For the organisation of the elections, the CSA used the many years or experience of the canton of Geneva, whose "CHVote"external link system is a pioneer in e-voting. Compared to the e-voting solution of the Swiss Postexternal link, Mastantuoni sees a clear advantage in the Geneva system. Due to the fact that the provider is a Swiss canton, the addresses of the Swiss Abroad could easily be exchanged with the Foreign Ministry.
“The Swiss Abroad are the first users of this voting system, and in official votes 60% to 70% of them use this system,” says Valérie Vulliez Boget, deputy secretary-general of the State Chancellery of the Canton of Geneva.
Geneva is very happy with the cooperation with the OSA. “We are obviously pleased about the opportunity to show that e-voting is also a useful tool for the Swiss Abroad,” says Philyp Nyffenegger, director for Support and Voting Process at the Chancellery. “For the Swiss Abroad it is also a reliable guarantee that their vote will arrive in time,” he emphasises.
Between 12 and 27 July, eligible voters could vote for their delegates online in the Council of the Swiss Abroad in Australia and Mexico.
In Mexico, 274 of 3,934 people registered with the embassy or consulate took part in the elections. This is a turnout of just under 7%.
In Australia, 1,104 of 14,850 Swiss Abroad took part in the vote. This is a turnout of 7.5%.
The newly elected Council of the Swiss Abroad will meet for the first time in Basel on 18 August.
Translated from German by Billi Bierling, swissinfo.ch