New legal basis for e-voting trials to be finalised by mid-2022
Bern, 10.12.2021 - At its meeting on 10 December, the Federal Council took note of the results of the consultation procedure on the legislation governing online voting (e-voting). It decided that the two related ordinances should be finalised by mid-2022. The Federal Council intends to pursue some of the fundamental issues raised in the responses to the consultation in the longer term.
The cantons will again be able to carry out e-voting trials. These are to be redesigned and given a new legal basis. This will involve revising two ordinances, the Ordinance on Political Rights (PoRO) and the Federal Chancellery Ordinance on Electronic Voting (OEV). A consultation procedure was carried out on the revision of the ordinances, and the Federal Council has taken note of the results.
In the consultation, the majority of respondents welcomed the main features and ob-jectives of the redesigned trials. The focus on the further development of the systems, effective control and oversight, greater transparency and trust as well as closer cooperation with the academic community all meet with great approval. In particular, respondents welcomed the fact that the Confederation will commission independent examinations of the systems and their operation, thus assuming responsibility for effective control of the systems.
A large majority of the cantons support the proposal. However, they also stress that the redesign of e-voting will generate high development costs. As only a few cantons are likely to use e-voting in the next few years, these costs will only affect a few cantons, for whom the burden will be all the higher. The Federal Council therefore believes that it makes sense for the Confederation to contribute to the development costs and is in favour of this taking place via Digital Public Services Switzerland (DPSS). An initial request to provide the additional funding has been granted by DPSS under the current implementation plan, which runs until 2023.
In the consultation, some participants called for the responsibilities of the Confederation, the cantons and the system providers to be reviewed and modified. In particular they would like development of the system to be in public hands. There were also calls for the Confederation to set different priorities for digitalisation. Others who took part in the consultation also raised fundamental issues: for example, some would like to see all e-voting systems and their components disclosed under an open source licence. The Federal Council takes these fundamental issues very seriously. They concern the security of e-voting and the public's confidence in this voting method and will be addressed in the longer term, as stated in the final report of the Steering Committee Vote électronique of 30 November 2020.
Various participants in the consultation raised the issue of limiting e-voting trials to a maximum of 30 per cent of voters in a canton and to a maximum of 10 per cent of all voters nationwide. While some would like these limits removed, others demand even stronger restrictions in the trials. The Federal Council is adhering to the proposed limits, which restrict the use of e-voting yet still leave the cantons sufficient leeway over its introduction.
The Confederation sets the legislative framework for e-voting, while the cantons de-cide whether to offer this voting method to their voters. By redesigning the trials, the Federal Council wants to enable those cantons pursuing the introduction of e-voting to resume trials under appropriate conditions. It has instructed the Federal Chancellery to finalise the PoRO and to submit it by mid-2022 for its entry into force. The Federal Chancellery is also currently finalising the revision of the OEV so that both ordinances can come into force at the same time.
The digitalisation of political rights is to be continued beyond e-voting in dialogue with the cantons, academia and the organisations concerned.
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