Geneva voters are to become the first in Switzerland to have their ballots counted by machine, when they go to polls on March 4 in a nationwide vote. Cantonal officials say the move will later be followed by online voting.
On March 4, machines will be used to count the majority of ballots from canton Geneva in a nationwide vote on the "Yes to Europe" initiative, which calls on the federal government to open immediate membership negotiations with the European Union.
Five machines will be used to count postal votes, which account for a staggering 90 per cent of the total ballots. The remaining 10 per cent will be counted manually.
Cantonal officials say the system is far faster and cheaper than the traditional hand counting method. Each machine can count 10,000 ballots every hour, and the error rate is said to be two in a million.
And Geneva doesn't intend to stop there. The canton has plans to introduce online voting next year. Cantonal officials are quick to point out, though, that traditional voting will still be possible.
Under Switzerland's system of direct democracy, voters are called to the polls as often as four times a year. Any constitutional amendment must be put before the people, and any citizen can force a nationwide vote on any issue by collecting a minimum of 100,000 supporting signatures.