Online voting and elections
Requirements for new e-voting solutions
Swiss Post plans to offer the cantons a new e-voting system from 2021. In its most advanced phase of development, the system meets all the security and testing requirements of the Swiss Federal Chancellery. It is based on a verifiable cryptographic protocol. This ensures the verification of votes cast both individually (voters) and universally (electoral commission).
Legal basis of e-voting
The Federal Act on Political Rights (PRA) gives the cantons responsibility for conducting Swiss federal votes and elections within their territory and sets out the regulatory framework for the associated process.
Trials with electronic voting are governed by Federal Law (Art 8a PRA), the Ordinance on Political Rights (Verordnung über die politischen Rechte; Art. 27a ff VPR), the Federal Chancellery Ordinance on Electronic Voting and other regulations on execution.
In agreement with interested cantons and municipalities, the Federal Council can facilitate electronic voting trials limited in time, geographical scope and subject matter (Art. 8a Para. 1 PRA). The Federal Chancellery assists the cantons in introducing electronic voting and coordinates efforts in this area. Trials require an initial authorization from the Federal Council. This is granted for a duration of up to two years (Art. 27a VPR). Each voting event requires authorization from the Federal Chancellery.
For electronic voting in cantonal and municipal votes and elections, the cantons can determine the conditions independently within the framework of the constitutional principles.
Requirements of the Federal Chancellery
For every contest, the Federal Chancellery checks whether the legal federal requirements for the approval of a system have been satisfied. This inspection is based on the application documentation submitted by the cantons.
To obtain an initial authorization from the Federal Chancellery, the cantons must adopt the following procedure:
Decision concerning an e-voting system
Contract negotiations and signing with the selected provider (contract negotiations are supported by the Federal Chancellery)
Submission of a provisional application for an initial authorization
Organization of a test vote (a successful test is a prerequisite for conducting a real trial)
Submission of a definitive application for an initial authorization for up to five contests
Receipt of the regular initial authorization from the Federal Chancellery (generally granted for two years).
If a canton has an initial authorization from the Federal Council, it must also request approval for a trial from the Federal Chancellery approximately 4–5 months before each contest.
Definition of Generation 2.0
The provisions for a second-generation platform are defined in the Federal Chancellery Ordinance on Electronic Voting. Two main requirements must be satisfied:
The voters can ensure that their vote has been registered correctly in the electronic ballot box without being changed.
When opening the ballot box, the electoral commission can easily check that the ballot box has not been falsified.
These provisions ensure that votes can be verified at three levels:
The voters can verify that they have voted as intended.
The voters receive confirmation that their vote has been recorded as cast.
The electoral authorities and independent experts can ensure beyond any doubt that the votes have been counted as they were recorded. This is based on zero-knowledge proofs, i.e. without knowing the votes, without opening the ballot box and without being able to trace the information back to the voters.
Individual and universal verifiability represents significant added value for second-generation solutions compared to previous generations. To facilitate verifiability, the Swiss Post solution is based on unchangeable protocols.