Redesign of e-voting trials: consultation procedure opened

Bern, 28.04.2021 - At its meeting on 28 April 2021 the Federal Council decided to open the consul-tation procedure for the redesign of electronic voting trials. The Ordinance on Political Rights will undergo a partial revision and the Federal Chancellery Ordinance on Electronic Voting will be completely revised. This is intended to create a new, stable basis for e-voting trials.

The Federal Council commissioned the Federal Chancellery to submit the bill for consultation on 18 December 2020, when it launched the redesign and defined the objectives of future e-voting trials. The cantons will be able to carry out e-voting trials again to a limited extent; new requirements will apply and, in particular, e-voting is to be made more secure. The revised requirements are presented in new draft legislation under consultation. This takes into account the objectives of the redesign and the lessons learned from previous trials. The academic community was included from the beginning in the broad-based discussions on establishing the redesign’s key features. On 30 November 2020 the Confederation and cantons approved a joint final report and an associated catalogue of measures. Transparency is central to the redesigned trials, which will include an ongoing improvement process featuring new instruments such as bug bounty programmes. In such programmes members of the public are financially rewarded for identifying vulnerabilities in the software system. It is now stipulated that only completely verifiable e-voting systems are to be used. Furthermore, the bill states that a maximum of 30% of eligible voters per canton and a maximum of 10% nationwide may participate in e-voting trials. It is also envisaged that, in addition to the Swiss abroad, e-voting can be offered preferentially to voters with a disability, i.e. these persons will not count towards the maximum. The bill regulates in detail how e-voting systems can be publicly monitored on an ongoing basis (access to documentation; disclosure of source code; publication of audit reports; information on any defects found; bug bounty programmes with a 'legal safe harbour' for participants; involvement of the academic community in the further development of the systems). The bill also states that independent experts will be responsible for ensuring compliance with the security requirements on behalf of the Confederation. The Federal Council already gave an indication of what the bill would contain in December 2020 when it announced the redesign of trials. The various e-voting actors can now prepare for the new regulatory environment with a view to resuming trials as soon as possible. For example, the Federal Chancellery is already preparing for the assessment of future e-voting systems by independent experts. The cantons and the system provider are already working towards meeting the new requirements for e-voting as soon as possible. The revisions of the Ordinance on Political Rights and the Federal Chancellery Ordinance on Electronic Voting do not change the legal responsibilities. The cantons will continue to decide whether they want to offer e-voting to their voters and with which system, while the Confederation will set the legal framework and act as the licensing authority. The consultation lasts until 18 August 2021, after which the results will be submitted to the Federal Council, which will decide on their entry into force. On the basis of the revised laws, the cantons can apply to the Federal Council for basic licences to resume trials.

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