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Government puts the brakes on e-voting

Security remains a major concern when it comes to rolling out e-voting on large scale Keystone

The cabinet has rejected requests to offer electronic voting to about 55,000 registered Swiss citizens abroad, due to security concerns. Only citizens from four cantons are allowed to cast their ballot via computer in October's parliamentary elections.

Only the around 34,000 Swiss expats who are registered with the cantonal authorities of Geneva, Neuchâtel, Basel City and Lucerne will be able to use e-voting, the Federal Chancellery said on Wednesday.

The voting systems in place will allow individual verification of votes and a personalised code provided to voters will help them verify if their vote has been recorded correctly or not. 

However, the cabinet rejected a similar attempt by of a consortium of nine Swiss cantons to extend e-voting to Swiss abroad. The cantons are Zurich, Glarus, Fribourg, Solothurn, Schaffhausen, St Gallen, Graubünden, Aargau and Thurgau. 

The reason cited was the presence of technical flaws that affected voting secrecy. Even though it is possible to resolve these flaws, the cabinet felt there wasn’t enough time to do it before the elections, as the system should have met all the requirements by July 1. 

In a statement, the cabinet affirmed that it would roll out e-voting in a phased manner but on the basis of the principle “security over speed”. 


 “This decision is a clearly a hard blow for the 142,000 Swiss abroad registered on the electoral register,” said the Organisation of the Swiss Abroad (OSA) in response to the cabinet’s decision. 

Peter Grünenfelder, president of steering committee of the nine canton consortium called the cabinet’s decision a “regrettable end to the long phase of trials for implementing e-voting in polls and elections”. 

“The goals of the cabinet have not been reached in quantitative terms,” said Barbara Perriard of the Federal Chancellery at a news conference. 

The government had initially planned to offer e-voting to 86,000 Swiss expats during the parliamentary elections in October. Around 142,000 expats have registered to take part in the elections. The number of Swiss citizens abroad (including those with double nationality) is around 747,000.

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