Federal Council approves resumption of online voting trials

Bern, 03.03.2023 - At its meeting on 3 March 2023, the Federal Council granted the cantons of Basel-Stadt, St Gallen and Thurgau basic licences for resuming trials with online voting (e-voting) in federal votes. The basic licences are valid for conducting online voting for a limited part of the electorate up to and including the vote on 18 May 2025. At the same time, the Federal Chancellery has granted its authorisation to hold the popular vote on 18 June 2023 online.

Today's decision by the Federal Council allows the cantons of Basel-Stadt, St Gallen and Thurgau to use the Swiss Post’s new online system for the first time. The system source code and documentation have been published since 2021. The system and its operation have since been examined in a number of steps by independent experts and by the public in a bug bounty programme and a public intrusion test, and improved by Swiss Post.

The Federal Council is granting the basic licences also in the light of the results of an independent examination commissioned by the Federal Chancellery; the examination reports were published today. The Federal Council has concluded that the system and its operation have been improved to such an extent that it is possible to use it within the limited scope of the approved trials.

Online voting is to be available to Swiss voters abroad who are registered in any of the three cantons that have applied for a basic licence. The canton of Basel-Stadt also allows Swiss citizens with a disability to vote online. In the canton of St Gallen, a limited number of Swiss voters from communes offering e-voting can also register to vote online. For the first vote in June 2023, the cantons are asking for a total of around 65,000 voters to be permitted to take part in the trials – around 1.2% of all Swiss voters.

Online voting is improved and reviewed in an ongoing process, building on the experience gained in practice. The need for action identified in the various examinations has been analysed and set out jointly by the Confederation and the participating cantons in consultation with Swiss Post in a catalogue of measures. These measures and the possibility of improving the system during use were also taken into account in the Federal Council's decision to grant the basic licences.

In addition to the basic licences issued by the Federal Council, the cantons require authorisation from the Federal Chancellery for each popular vote held. On the basis of the licences issued by the Federal Council and in consideration of the catalogue of measures, the Federal Chancellery has granted the cantons of Basel-Stadt, St Gallen and Thurgau the authorisation to conduct the popular vote of 18 June 2023. The Federal Chancellery will ensure that the measures are implemented as part of future authorisation procedures.

Online voting systems were last used in Switzerland in 2019 for federal votes on a trial basis. With the resumption of trials this year, the cantons will be able to use Swiss Post's system offering complete verifiability for the first time. Complete verifiability is an important feature to ensure the security of online voting; it involves the use of verification codes and mathematical proofs to detect when votes cast online may have been manipulated and to react accordingly.

Use of online voting in the 2023 National Council election
The cantons require a special basic licence from the Federal Council to conduct online voting in the National Council election. The cantons can choose whether to apply for such a licence.

Address for enquiries

Urs Bruderer
Federal Chancellery, Deputy Head of Communication
+41 58 483 99 69


The Federal Council

Federal Chancellery