An update on e-voting and the federal election 2019

A lot has happened lately with regards to e-voting. There has been growing resistance and a fair bit of scare-mongering in Switzerland regarding the introduction of e-voting. Whilst the advantages are obvious to the government and the Swiss Abroad, sceptics argue that the trust in the democratic process is compromised due to e-security uncertainty and the cost of developing a secure system is also a concern. Earlier this year, a broad alliance of political parties has been collecting signatures for a popular initiative. Their aim is to ban the introduction of e-voting for at least five years.


On 19 June the Canton Geneva announced that it can no longer afford to bear the cost of an e-voting system and that subsequently it will abandon the project. This means the Swiss Abroad from the cantons of GE, BS, LU, BE, AG and SG will be denied electronic voting for the federal elections of 2019. See OSA press release here.


Then, on 26 June, the Federal Council, whilst still in support of e-voting, decided to provisionally forgo introducing electronic voting into regular operation for the time being. Read the press release here.


The Organisation of the Swiss Abroad (OSA) acknowledges with consternation the decision by the Federal Council to reverse its earlier plan of introducing electronic voting as a regular voting channel. Depending on the country of residence, postal voting is not an option as the election documents either arrive too late or a timely return of the ballots is not possible. Hence it is a denial of democratic rights for some of the Swiss Abroad. The OSA’s aim has always been and still is to enable the Swiss Abroad to participate in the democratic process in Switzerland. For more information (in German) read the OSA press release here.


To add to the bad news, on 8 July Swiss Post decided to no longer offer its e-voting system with immediate effect due to e-security concerns. This is a major setback and affects Swiss citizens abroad entitled to vote electronically in the cantons of NE, FR and TG. To learn more, access the Swiss Post Press Release here


E-voting was high on the agenda at the meeting of the Council of the Swiss Abroad on 16 August in Montreux and also at the Congress the following day. Keynote speaker Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis explained the position of the government and stressed that safeguarding the trust in the political system is paramount. It cannot be compromised by a voting system that may not be as secure as it could be. The realisation by the delegates and Swiss Abroad community that e-voting is effectively grounded, maybe for years to come, was meet with profound disappointment. Federal Councillor Cassis gave assurance of the government’s believe in the future of e-voting and that it will actively work with the Cantons to establish a system that deserves the trust of everyone.


E-voting will remain on the agenda of your delegates until we have succeeded in making electronic voting a voting option like any other and to achieve a complete digitisation of the voting process. We believe that these setbacks spell not the end of e-government (including e-voting) but offer an opportunity for developing a secure und trusted system for the future. Read an interview with OSA President Remo Gysin about it here


Swiss citizen living in Oceania usually get their voting material in the mail a couple of weeks prior to the voting date. We encourage you to vote, particularly at the upcoming National Council elections and the first round of elections for the Council of States which will take place on 20 October, 2019. A quarter, or 195,000 of the 775,000 Swiss Abroad are registered on an electoral roll and are entitled to elect their National Councillors, and also their members for the Council of States in the following 12 cantons BE, BL, BS, FR, GE, GR, JU, NE, SO, SZ, TI and ZH.


In Oceania less than 18%, or 4,800 of the 27,000 registered Swiss are on an electoral roll. Oceania lags behind the average quite significantly. It is up to us; an increased Swiss Abroad vote, and considering parties and candidates that are sympathetic to the Swiss Abroad, will increase our chances to be heard in Bern!


Important: If you are a Swiss Abroad who is not registered on the voting and electoral roll you must complete the following registration form to be able to participate in elections and voting in Switzerland: Application to exercise political rights


The completed form must be submitted to either the Swiss Embassy of Switzerland in Wellington or to the Consulate General in Sydney, depending on where you are registered. For more information about voting and electoral rights, click here.


To learn more about the National Council elections, please visit the official website “Elections 2019” or learn here which of the major political parties in parliament were the most friendly to the expat Swiss over the past four years. 


On their website the OSA publishes election information that is of specific interest to Swiss Abroad. There you can find the election manifesto that the Council of the Swiss Abroad has approved (in German or French), links to the election programs of political parties – and importantly – a list of Swiss Abroad candidates that are standing for election, including eight candidates that are members of the Council of the Swiss Abroad. 


Roland Isler

CSA Delegate, Australia