Innovation & technology

“E-voting will increase voter turnout.”

Over 630,000 people living abroad are entitled to vote in Switzerland. Carmen Trochsler is one of them. As a native of St. Gallen, she is particularly pleased that, thanks to e-voting, political participation in her old homeland will be possible in an easier way again.

Stefan Kern

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Ms Trochsler, first of all, warm greetings to you in Adelaide. You were born in Switzerland, but have been living in Australia for 13 years now. How did that come about?

I’d say a big part of it is a spirit of adventure, combined with an opportunity to work in Australia. I was planning on staying there for two years with my husband and our three-year-old son at the time, but we ended up liking it so much we kept adding on a year, then more years followed. Our second son was born here too.

You are involved with the Council of the Swiss Abroad. Why is that?

I like to engage with issues that matter to Swiss citizens living abroad. Thanks to my legal background and my former role in the Federal Department of Justice and Police, I’m familiar with the political and legislative processes. My involvement with the Council is a way of connecting with Switzerland and of working with various interest groups to find sustainable solutions.

So you must be pleased that the canton of St. Gallen is ahead of the game here, and that e-voting – even if it’s just a trial run to begin with – is set to be introduced this June?

Yes, I see it as a privilege to be able to vote again after four years. E-voting is in keeping with the times, and we live in a digitized world. We already have e-education, e-commerce and e-administration, so it stands to reason we should be able to vote electronically too. I’m thrilled that St. Gallen is among the first, together with Basel-Stadt and Thurgau, to make e-voting possible again.

What is the voting process for you like at the moment?

We can only vote by post, and standard shipping costs about 10 francs because of the size of the voting envelope. Seeing as Australia is not exactly round the corner, time is of the essence. Depending on the date the voting documents arrive, you have to gauge whether your ballot will make it back to Switzerland in time when you return it. This means there are people who opt for Express or Courier delivery, which can easily cost between 30 and 60 francs. E-voting, on the other hand, is quick, straightforward and free for us as voters.

Do you think more Swiss citizens living abroad would exercise their political rights with e-voting?

During Covid times, the documents would often arrive late, and voters were faced with the question whether voting is that important to them that they don’t mind paying Express or Courier delivery costs? Ultimately, a lot of people, myself included, stopped voting. And that was a real shame. With that in mind: yes, I’m sure e-voting will increase turnout amongst Swiss citizens living abroad.

You are a lawyer by profession, so what would you say are the security concerns when it comes to e-voting?

E-voting is a logical consequence of the IT-based modernization of admin processes. At the same time, voting is an essential part of democracy, and it’s crucial we avoid faulty voting processes. Security concerns were addressed with a thorough review, and the new system was tested by hackers. I’m confident that my vote will arrive safely.

Why is it so important that Swiss residents living outside Switzerland have a say in political matters?

Many Swiss citizens abroad have property, business or academic ties and family in Switzerland, and are still connected to their old homeland. What’s more, the average time they spend abroad has decreased, and many no longer emigrate permanently, but instead return after a few years. This means decisions made in Switzerland still affect many of them, and they should be able to cast a ballot from abroad.

About Carmen Trochsler

Born and raised in the St. Gallen’s Rhine Valley, educated at the University of St. Gallen, and with many years working as a lawyer at the Federal Department of Justice and Police in Bern, Carmen Trochsler is Swiss through and through. In 2010, she moved with her husband and her first child to Australia, and is still living there now. She has never lost that connection to her native country, which is why she is actively involved with the Council of the Swiss Abroad.  

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All those interested can now get to know and try out e-voting. Swiss Post has provided a test platform on which anyone can run through the electronic vote casting process. Go to the e-voting test platform here.

written by

Stefan Kern