Government-owned Swiss Post has become the latest player to enter the electronic voting market, announcing that it will work with Neuchâtel to offer an e-voting system next year. But its partnership with Spanish firm Scytl has some questioning whether the use of foreign voting systems could leave the Swiss exposed to security concerns. The move by Swiss Post follows the government’s decision, on security grounds, to reject the use by a consortium of nine cantons of a voting system developed by American company Unisys during the October 18 parliamentary elections. Since the first trials at electronic voting in 2003, Swiss cantons have been wrestling with the development of secure e-voting systems. To date, canton Geneva has been the most successful in rolling out an approved system, due in large part to the platform being 100% publicly funded and locally developed. The model has so far been adopted by three other cantons: Lucerne, Basel City and Bern. Aside from the failed attempt by the consortium of nine cantons to introduce the use of an American e-voting system, Neuchâtel has been the only other canton to enter the fray. In partnership with Syctl, a global leader in the field, it has developed a unique online voting platform that offers the possibility of voting directly from a computer keyboard. Having eyed the market for some time, it is this system Swiss Post is banking on to provide its entry into the world of e-voting.
The Syctl/Neuchâtel platform, announced in September, is expected to provide a level of security that could potentially allow all citizens to participate in elections and other votes online. “We have conceived a second generation system that responds 100% to the security demands required by the government,” says Claudia Pletscher, head of innovation and development at Swiss Post. “Individual and universal verification is guaranteed. This means that voters and authorities can, at any moment, check that the correct vote has been registered. It’s a major new development.”
The new system is potentially a game changer, but the arrival of Swiss Post into the e-voting arena has caused a stir. Christophe Darbellay, leader of the centrist Christian Democratic Party, warns that one must “keep a watchful, even suspicious eye” on the postal giant’s moves. “Swiss Post is a Swiss company owned by the government and therefore offers certain guarantees,” he said. “It is, however, incomprehensible that is had chosen a Spanish company, with direct links to the US Department of Defence, as its partner. The problems encountered by the consortium of nine cantons [which worked with American company Unisys] should have served as a warning.”