E-voting: outcomes from dialogue with experts guide future developments
Bern, 19.11.2020 - The Confederation and the cantons have conducted broad-based discussions with experts in Switzerland and abroad on e-voting in this country. The outcomes of these discussions are now available, and will be incorporated in the legal and technical bases of the trial programme, which is currently under revision.
Twenty-three experts from Switzerland and abroad from both the academic community and private sector took part in the dialog. The workshops originally planned were cancelled owing to the coronavirus pandemic, and were replaced by moderated written exchanges on an internet platform.
Among the aspects discussed were the risks and security measures, independent checks, cooperation with academia and public involvement, transparency and building trust. Over 700 statements and opinions were submitted via the platform. Conclusions were drawn in the individual discussion blocks and diverging opinions recorded.
The experts are of the view that a considerable amount has been achieved in Switzerland’s internet voting trials to date. Many believe that internet voting will have become a reliable method of voting within the next fifteen years. Others doubt that it will inspire the necessary degree of trust. All agree that particular attention must be paid to the security aspect in conventional voting procedures as well.
The perfect system does not exist, is the overall conclusion: manipulation or technical errors cannot be entirely ruled out. However, systems can be designed in such a way as to make fraud extremely difficult and, if it does occur, to make it detectible with very high probability. Verifiability plays a vital role in this.
The experts believe that more needs to be done in the areas of security, transparency and independent scrutiny of the system. Public scrutiny is also seen as a very important factor. Instead of a public intrusion test (PIT), as conducted in 2019, they rec-ommend hackathons or a continuously running bug-bounty programme, in which discovery of a fault is rewarded financially.
The experts believe it is appropriate to involve independent specialists from academia and the private sector in the design, development and scrutiny of internet voting systems, and also to give greater weight to socio-political aspects. The dialog that has taken place is a milestone that has led to valuable outcomes.
The Confederation and cantons are using these findings in the ongoing work on the legal and technical bases for the internet voting trial programme, which is currently under revision. The Federal Council will in due course decide on how the trial programme is to be continued.
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