In order to ensure the security of online voting systems used in Switzerland, the government needs to issue a challenge to the worldwide hacker community, offering rewards to anyone who can “blow holes in the system”, says a computer scientist in parliament. Since it began in 2000, Switzerland’s e-voting project has been a matter of controversy. While some have been calling for its introduction to be fast-tracked in all the country’s 26 cantons, others would like to see the project slowed. In parliament there has been a call for a moratorium on electronic voting in the whole country for four years, except for the Swiss abroad. To put an end to all the concerns and convince the critics that security and secrecy of online voting can be guaranteed, Radical Party parliamentarian Marcel Dobler thinks there needs to be an unequivocal demonstration that systems used in Switzerland are proof against computer piracy. The best way to do this, he says, is to invite hackers to target them.
Articles about voting issues in the Swiss Confederation.
People with disabilities and placed under full guardianship are the only Swiss citizens who do not have the right to vote. This violates the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which Switzerland ratified in 2014. Experts are now committed to overturning this inequality. People in this group are those with serious and long-term disabilities, that according to Article 136 of the Federal Constitutionexternal link, makes them ‘permanently incapable of judgement’. As they are unable to care for themselves, the Cantonal Protection Office for Children and Adults places them under full guardianship.
Voting pamphlets and explanations of federal bills should be available online in sign language, says the Swiss Federation for the Deaf, which has handed in a petition to the federal chancellery. For the more than 10,000 people in Switzerland who are deaf or profoundly hard of hearing, the voting pamphlet appears in the “wrong language”, the federation said in a statementexternal link on Monday. “Their language is sign language. Written German is a foreign language they have to struggle to learn,” it wrote. “Having to understand complex political content in this foreign language is an unnecessary hurdle which violates Swiss and international law on barrier-free access to information.” The federation explained that without appropriate measures, “the free formation of opinions and therefore political participation is made more difficult – if not impossible – for affected people”.
The use of electronic voting in Switzerland has been making slow progress amid setbacks over security concerns. The Organisation of the Swiss Abroad (OSA) is pushing for the introduction of e-voting for all Swiss expats by the next parliamentary elections in October 2019. Critics complain that the number of cantons offering their registered Swiss citizens abroad the option of e-voting falls short of expectations. In all, 775,000 Swiss citizens live overseas and if you consider that e-voting trials using online technology have been underway since 2004, the number of potential beneficiaries is rather modest. About 158,000 expats from eight cantons (see map below) have the option of participating in the September 24 votes on the controversial old age pension reform, food security and some cantonal issues using a secure computer programme. Eighteen other cantons, including the populous cantons of Zurich and Vaud, do not offer e-voting.
The Swiss government has given the green light to two cantons to resume online voting in time for the next set of referendums in September. The cantons of St Gallen and Aargau will be able to resume e-voting, joining six other cantons which already offer the system. Online voting was used previously in St Gallen and Aargau between 2010 and 2015, when the government banned the practice before that year’s general election, due to security loopholes. During that time, both cantons used the Vote électronique system which involved a total of nine cantons before the government withdrew its authorization.
The Swiss authorities are preparing to expand e-voting to more cantons, which would give more citizens the chance to cast their votes electronically. The government on Wednesday said the system should be expanded from its test phase. Until now, 14 cantons have at various times allowed Swiss living abroad to vote electronically. Three cantons (Neuchatel, Geneva and Basel City) have operated e-voting systems for Swiss-based citizens. Up to two-thirds of citizens who have been eligible to vote electronically have grabbed the opportunity, proving that strong demand exists, the government said.
Swiss citizens of some cantons who live abroad have a choice of two systems with which to vote online in votes in their home country. One of these is offered by Swiss Post. It has now put a demo version online, which people can use to simulate their participation. More than just an advertising stunt? A trial goes smoothly: First, I can download a digital voting card from Swiss Post’s special websiteexternal link (in the country’s four national languages, German, French, Italian and Romansh) which I would usually have received by post. This has three codes.
Reporters without Borders has condemned a Swiss court’s decision to convict a journalist of electoral fraud after he voted twice in order to prove failures in the system. Joël Boissard, who works for Swiss broadcaster RTS, was fined, ordered to pay court costs and given a further suspended fine after being found guilty in early November, according to news agencies. The incident occurred last year when Boissard, who had recently moved house, received two sets of voting documents for federal and cantonal elections on March 8th 2015. Assuming the online system would prevent him from voting twice, he tried to do so – and succeeded. Boissard immediately contacted the electoral authorities to report what he had done and ask them to explain the anomaly, he told news agencies.
A Swiss television journalist is to appeal a conviction for electoral fraud after demonstrating for a news report that it was possible to vote twice electronically on a single issue. He was able to do this in March 2015 having been mistakenly sent two sets of voting forms following a change of address. He alerted the authorities to the issue, but three weeks later was indicted by Geneva prosecutors. In early November, he was sentenced by a Bern court to a two-day suspended prison sentence and a fine of CHF400 after exposing the e-voting system’s shortcomings. His journalistic research was found by the court to be no defence against the crime.
Switzerland: In referendum, Switzerland votes for meatier surveillance law by large margin | Ars Technica
Swiss citizens have backed by a large margin a new law that will expand government surveillance powers, following a national referendum held in Switzerland on Sunday. In total, 65.5 percent were in favour, and 34.5 percent against. Under the new law, Switzerland’s intelligence agency, the Service de renseignement de la Confédération (SRC), will be allowed to break into computers and install malware, spy on phone and Internet communications, and place microphones and video cameras in private locations. “This is not generalised surveillance, it’s letting the intelligence services do their job,” said Swiss Christian Democratic party vice-president Yannick Buttet, according to the Guardian. However, Swiss parliamentarian and leading member of the leftwing Social Democrats Jean Christophe Schwaab disagreed: “This law seeks to introduce mass observation and preventive surveillance. Both methods are not efficient and go against the basic rights of citizens.”