Federal government launches examination of new e-voting system
Bern, 05.07.2021 - With consultations already underway on new federal provisions that define extensive security requirements for e-voting systems and their operation, some cantons are planning new trials with the redesigned Swiss Post e-voting system. The Confederation is therefore launching an independent examination of this system and its operation. This will take several months and will serve as a basis for deciding whether the cantons can relaunch trials with this system.
With the redesign of e-voting trial operations, an independent examination of the systems and their operation will now be carried out directly on behalf of the Confederation. The Confederation will thus assume greater responsibility. The examination covers all processes, from the development of the system and its operation to the production of polling cards and determining the results of individual ballots. It therefore also involves the cantons and their service providers.
So far, the Federal Chancellery has commissioned the following experts to carry out the examination:
- Rolf Haenni, Reto Koenig, Philipp Locher, Eric Dubuis (Bern University of Applied Sciences)
- Vanessa Teague (Thinking Cybersecurity)
- Olivier Pereira (Université catholique Louvain)
- Thomas Edmund Haines (Australian National University)
- Aleksander Essex (Western University Canada)
- SCRT S.A.
- Bryan Ford (EPF Lausanne)
- Adrian Perrig (ETH Zurich)
The experts are expected to provide an assessment of the extent to which the requirements under federal law are met, the effectiveness of risk-minimising measures and possible improvements in an ongoing improvement process. However, they will not decide whether a system may be used or not. Assessment of the risks and responsibility for use of a system remains a matter for the Confederation (the licensing authority) and the cantons (which conduct the ballots). The experts’ reports will be published when the examination is completed, and are expected early next year.
The results of the independent examination will serve as a basis for the Federal Council's decision on whether to grant a requesting canton a basic licence to conduct e-voting. The legal requirements for granting the licence have been revised and are currently under consultation.
In addition to the independent examination mandated by the federal government, the law requires that a number of further examinations be carried out on e-voting systems and their operation. For example, the cantons must require the system provider to organise a public bug-bounty programme, i.e. to disclose the system code and offer financial rewards to those who discover any bugs in it. There should also be a continuous dialogue with the academic community, covering issues such as system deployment and the licensing process.
The aim of all of these measures is to ensure that errors are detected and corrected. There is therefore to be a continuous examination and improvement process for e-voting systems and their operation going forward.
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