E-voting dealt another political blow

The headwinds are well and truly blowing in the face of e-voting these days. © Keystone / Gian Ehrenzeller

Six months after the government abandoned efforts to enshrine e-voting in law, politicians in the House of Representatives have indicated that they’re in favour of shelving trials completely.

This content was published on December 10, 2019 - 15:58
Keystone-SDA/dos, with input from Marie Vuilleumier

The year 2019 started badly for Swiss e-voting fans, when hackers found “significant” security-compromising flaws in the system developed by the state-run Swiss Post.

Now it’s ending badly, too, as politicians in the larger parliamentary chamber voted (100 to 75, with 7 abstentions) in favour of a proposal to halt trials of the technology altogether.

Although it is neither a definitive result nor a binding piece of legislation, the result amounts to another setback for the technology after the government in June abandoned plans to enshrine e-voting in law due to the security issues mentioned above.

The text voted on Monday by the House of Representatives goes further and demands the suspension of all trials around e-voting until the government produces a report proving that the security concerns have been resolved and that the software responds to real needs.

Options running out

The idea, put forward by Claudio Zanetti of the right-wing People’s Party, was supported by his own party as well as by the Greens, most Liberal Greens, and a handful of Social Democrats.

It was also welcomed by the leaders of a people’s initiative campaign that’s currently gathering signatures to force a national vote on scrapping the idea of e-voting. However, campaign head Nicolas A. Rimoldi says his group still plans to continue campaigning, despite the strong political winds blowing against e-voting.

The expatriate Swiss community has long lobbied for the introduction of the technology, arguing that it boosts participation and can work to overcome the problem of postal vote materials arriving too late – a concern that resurfaced after the recent parliamentary elections.

In June the parliament also approved a proposal aiming to replace e-voting by ‘e-sending’: i.e. Swiss voters living abroad would be able to receive their papers by mail, before printing them out and posting back.

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