In Switzerland, e-voting means that eligible voters can participate in popular ballots and elections via the internet using a computer, tablet or smartphone. This eliminates the need to go to a polling station, or a letter-box if voting by post.
Trial phase in Switzerland
E-voting trials are currently being conducted in certain cantons. Votes cast via e-voting count towards the result.
The scope of the trials is limited: a maximum of 30% of eligible voters are permitted to use e-voting in any particular canton, with the national cap set at 10%. Current e-voting numbers still fall well below these quotas.
The Confederation and the cantons are promoting e-voting trials as a way to digitalise the culture and tradition of political rights in Switzerland – and reap the benefits that this transition will bring for democracy. The risk of invalid votes will be eliminated, for example, while vote counting will be simpler.
Eligible voters with disabilities such as visual impairments will also benefit from the switch to e-voting, which will make it easier for them to vote unassisted. Being able to vote online will also free Swiss abroad from their reliance on local postal services.
Every canton decides for itself whether to conduct e-voting trials. The cantons also decide which voters would be eligible to participate in the trials.
E-voting trials currently pertain to the cantons of Basel-Stadt, St Gallen, Thurgau and Graubünden. You can find out more about eligibility and e-voting procedures on the relevant canton’s website.
Since 2004, a total of 15 cantons have participated in e-voting trials: ZH, BE, LU, GL, FR, SO, BS, SH, SG, GR, AG, TG, NE, GE, VD.
If you are part of an e-voting trial, you will receive a voter identification card with your personal verification codes. You will use these codes to cast your vote electronically and then verify that it has been submitted correctly.
Your voter identification card will provide instructions on how to access your canton’s e-voting portal, as well as how to cast and check your vote. You will also receive information on the e-voting deadline.
Your vote will encrypted. The authorities cannot trace how you voted.
The cantons’ e-voting platform provides a step-by-step explanation of the e-voting process.
Note: Once you have cast your vote electronically, your voter identification card will be recorded and blocked for other forms of voting (by post or at a polling station). You cannot vote again at a polling station using a voter identification card that has already been used for e-voting. Votes sent by post with a voter identification card that has already been used will not be counted.
The security of e-voting comes down to the type of system being used – and how it is used. Swiss law requires both the system and its operation to be monitored very closely.
Switzerland currently uses an e-voting system developed and tested by Swiss Post. Tests included a bug bounty-style programme: anyone, including hackers, could access the system and try to find errors or security gaps, for which they would be rewarded.
Independent reviewers also examined the system and its operation. The Confederation brought in specialists from around the world to carry out comprehensive tests, and then published the results. The Federal Chancellery website provides more information on e-voting security.
How does e-voting work? Where is it used? The cantons’ e-voting information platform
Legal basis, security information, history of e-voting trials: Information from the Federal Chancellery
Source code, test environment: Information from Swiss Post about its e-voting system