A recent government decision to deny nine cantons the ability to offer e-voting for the upcoming federal elections has come under fire. Critics say it threatens the broader use of electronic voting in the future. In a press release last month, the government said an audit of the electronic voting system developed by American company Unisys revealed major security flaws in the protection of voting secrecy. The machine was proposed by a consortium of nine cantons to be used in the upcoming elections. The government’s decision means that despite significant progress in introducing e-voting to Switzerland in recent years, just four of 13 cantons that applied to offer e-voting during the October parliamentary elections have been authorised to do so. Critics of the decision say that a large majority of the 142,000 Swiss abroad registered to vote will now not be able to do so by electronic means. “The government’s decision is not only incomprehensible, but it is also likely to call into question the people’s confidence in the credibility of e-voting,” says Peter Grünenfelder, chancellor of Aargau and president of the consortium of nine cantons based in the Zurich region that were refused access to electronic voting. Grünenfelder believes that by rejecting the use of the American-developed technology, the government is hoping to support publicly developed e-voting systems, such as the one used by Geneva, rather than private ones. However, government spokesman André Simonazzi rejects this hypothesis and says the cantons have had 18 months to ensure the electronic voting system met the required security conditions. “In the area of protecting voting secrecy in particular, some serious deficiencies were noted,” Simonazzi said. “In the case of a cyber-attack, hackers would have been able to reveal the electors’ vote, which is not tolerable in a democracy.”
Opponents of the generalised rollout of electronic voting can be found in political parties as diverse as the Greens and the People’s Party. Socialist parliamentarian Jean-Christophe Schwaab says the government’s decision will protect Swiss democracy.
“After having gone full-steam ahead in recent years, the government has adopted a more prudent position, which is all the better,” says Schwaab. “It would not have been responsible to authorise the use of a system which does not provide all the necessary security guarantees. Those who play with security run the risk of democracy disappearing.”
Schwaab is also particularly pleased the government rejected the voting system developed by a private American company.
“We know very well that the American companies install backdoors in their software so that the NSA (National Security Agency) and other government agencies can have access to the data. Voting secrecy should not be put at the mercy of foreign intelligence,” he says.
Full Article: Hacking fears jeopardise e-voting rollout – SWI swissinfo.ch.