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Switzerland - 2015 Election

The 18 October 2015 Federal Assembly elections represented a step forward in Switzerland’s development of Internet voting. Voters elected members to the bicameral Federal Assembly for a four-year term. Most of the 200 members of the National Council, are elected under a proportional system, while the 46 members of the Council of States, are largely elected through majoritarian contests. Switzerland is a federal state composed of 26 cantons. While federal legislation provides minimum conditions for National Council elections, the implementation and details are regulated by cantonal law.

Thirteen parties were currently represented in the Federal Assembly. Of these, five hold seats in the Federal Council: the Radical Free Democratic Party and the Social Democratic Party, with two members each; and the Conservative Democratic Party, the Christian Democratic People’s Party and the Swiss People’s Party, each with one member. The Swiss Green Party and the Green Liberal Party are the largest parliamentary parties not represented on the Federal Council.

Women were generally underrepresented in public office. Although 3 out of 7 Federal Councillors were women, only some 29 percent of seats in the outgoing Federal Assembly and 26 per cent of seats in the cantonal parliaments were held by women. In line with a prior OSCE/ODIHR recommendation, sex-disaggregated statistics on voting patterns will be provided in some cantons as part of a pilot project for referenda held after 2015.

Voters were provided with a range of options when making their choice. Each voter can cast a vote for a list as presented or modify it by deleting candidates, adding candidates from other lists, or entering the name of one candidate twice. Voters may also compose their own ballot paper by combining candidates from different lists within a constituency. Despite these complex voting options, the usability of both systems was generally assessed positively.

The absolute number of eligible voters who participated in the National Council elections reached a new high in 2015. Voter turnout remains at 48.5 percent throughout Switzerland. The Federal Council has approved the report to the National Council on the National Council elections for the 50th legislative period.

At its meeting on 11 November 2015, the Federal Council approved the report on the National Council elections of 18 October 2015 for the 50th legislative period for the attention of the National Council. The report contains the election results of all the lists as well as the candidates of all cantons reviewed by the Federal Chancellery.

In the 26 cantons, a total of 5,283,556 persons were entitled to vote, including 147,757 Swiss Abroad. 2'563'052 persons entitled to vote have cast their vote. This corresponds to a turnout of 48.5 percent. In absolute terms, this represents a new high, in percentage terms, the turnout remains constant compared to 2011. The number of invalid ballots has decreased throughout Switzerland in both absolute and relative terms. 30,665 of the ballot papers filed were invalid in 2015 (1.2 percent). In 2011, there had been 33,639 invalid ballots (1.35 percent).

These elections marked a step forward in Switzerland’s development of Internet voting. As part of a long-term project to develop online voting, some 130,000 eligible voters from four cantons were eligible to participate in Internet voting pilots. This was the second time that Internet voting had been piloted for out-of-country voting in Federal Assembly elections and the first time that some citizens residing in Switzerland could vote via the Internet in federal elections. Interlocutors expressed a high level of confidence in the integrity of Internet voting. The pilots were administered professionally and in line with a newly detailed legal framework, although additional measures could be taken to enhance the transparency and accountability of the process.

Following a 2013 federal review of Internet voting, relevant legislation was significantly amended with broad support from stakeholders at the federal and cantonal levels. The revised legal framework reaffirms the intention to gradually implement Internet voting and the importance of a “security first” strategy that sets new requirements, including with regard to security, testing and verifiability. The amendments addressed a large number of previous OSCE/ODIHR recommendations. In general, the legal framework provides a sound basis for the use of Internet voting.

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