e-voting: Federal Council launches redesign of trials
Bern, 21.12.2020 - The cantons are again to be permitted to undertake limited trials with online voting using fully verifiable systems. This is the declared aim of the Federal Council, which on 18 December issued a decision on the redesign of e-voting trials. More precise security requirements, increased transparency, closer cooperation with independent experts and effective auditing on behalf of the Confederation will all contribute to ensuring the security of e-voting. There will be a consultation procedure on amending the statutory bases in 2021.
In announcing a redesign of e-voting trials, the Federal Council is applying lessons learnt in the previous trial phase. Its decision is based on a report issued on 30 November 2020 by the Confederation and cantons and an associated catalogue of measures on the redesign and relaunch of the trials. These were drawn up in a dialogue with academic experts.
In future, the Confederation will only authorise fully verifiable systems. This is an important measure in ensuring the security of e-voting, as full verifiability allows any manipulation of online voting to be detected. More precise requirements will increase the security of e-voting systems. Furthermore, stricter transparency requirements and
greater involvement of independent experts in the design, development and auditing of the systems will help to create a process of continual improvement, supported by an ongoing dialogue with the academic community.
The Confederation will have a stronger role, as it will directly commission independent experts to audit the systems and their operation. Moreover, the systems will be open to ongoing public testing, primarily in a bug-bounty programme. Members of the public providing valuable inputs are to receive a financial reward. The source code and documentation of an e-voting system must already be made public under current federal law. The aim is to publish future systems and system components under an open-source licence . For existing systems, it is currently being considered whether some individual components can be placed under an open-source licence.
Furthermore, in the next phase of the trials a maximum of 30 per cent of voters at cantonal level and ten per cent of voters at national level will be permitted to vote
online. As before, the cantons decide themselves whether to conduct e-voting trials, and whether to procure an e-voting system. The Confederation continues to set the regulatory framework and to give authorisation for the systems.
The Federal Council has instructed the Federal Chancellery (FCh) to work with the cantons on the gradual implementation of the redesign measures. The FCh will draw up a consultation brief containing the necessary amendments to the Ordinance on Political Rights and the Federal Chancellery Ordinance on Electronic Voting (VEleS). Once the legal bases have been amended and the systems successfully tested by independent experts, trials can be relaunched. E-voting can only become established as a reliable voting channel if it inspires the trust of the general public. The redesign of the system is intended to achieve this.
Background and next steps
E-voting forms part of the Confederation’s and cantons’ e-Government strategy. Since 2004, 15 cantons have run over 300 online voting trials. E-voting is not currently being offered as there is no system available that conforms to federal legal requirements. For the next phase of trials, new measures will be implemented with the aim of establishing stable operation with fully verifiable systems. The system redesign involves developing the system further, establishing more effective auditing and oversight, increasing transparency and trust and cooperating more closely with experts. Some cantons intend to
reintroduce e-voting in the coming years.
Address for enquiries
Deputy head, Communication Section, Federal Chancellery
+41 58 483 99 69