Geneva shelves e-voting platform on cost grounds

Switzerland has conducted many trials on e-voting but has yet to adopt a national standard. © KEYSTONE / PETER SCHNEIDER

Canton Geneva has announced it can no longer afford to bear the cost of an e-voting system and plans to abandon the project, according to Swiss public radio, RTS. This leaves only one other e-voting project still standing in Switzerland run by Swiss Post.

This content was published on November 28, 2018 - 11:24

A recent test by hackers found security vulnerabilities in the Geneva system, but according to RTS this was not the reason for the cantonal authorities wanting to ditch its e-voting platform. 

The RTS report on Wednesday said the authorities did not want to continue investing in revising and improving the system which had cost CHF2 million.

Canton St Gallen, which uses Geneva's system, responded to the news by declaring it wants to switch to the Swiss Post platform.

Geneva’s e-voting system will continue to operate next year, after which the canton will find alternatives. The canton, however, remains committed to digital voting, particularly for Swiss citizens living abroad and for people with disabilities who cannot easily get to polling stations.

According to the latest statistics from September 2017, nearly 60% of Geneva voters have used the e-voting platform.

The abandonment of Geneva’s e-voting platform will leave Swiss Post, the state-owned postal service, as the sole digital voting provider in Switzerland. Swiss Post’s system is also due to undergo rigorous hacking tests next year.

While the Organisation for the Swiss Abroad in particular have welcomed the adoption of e-voting in Switzerland, other parties have expressed doubts about the security of such systems, fearing that it could result in vote fraud and manipulation.

Slow progress

There are now voices that are concerned that e-voting could in future lie solely in the hands of a single provider.

The use of electronic voting in Switzerland has been making slow progress amid setbacks over security concerns. Over the past 15 years, more than 200 trials with e-voting have been carried out at nationwide and cantonal levels.

In Switzerland, cantons Vaud, Bern, Lucerne, Basel City, St Gallen and Aargau use the Geneva-developed e-voting system. Fribourg, Neuchâtel and Thurgau use the one developed by Swiss Post.

Last year, the government decided to expand e-voting options across the country, incorporating it in at least 18 of the country’s 26 cantons by October 2019 for the parliamentary elections. 

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