Under this general authorisation, the Federal Council allows cantons to use the electronic channel for federal votes under specified conditions. As part of the approval procedure, the Federal Chancellery will in future confirm that the conditions defined by the Federal Council are met before every vote. In case of extension of testing to additional canton communities or in the case of a system change, the cantons must apply for a new general authorisation.
According to current estimates, some 169 000 voters will participate in the electronic voting trials. The cantons of Geneva and Neuchâtel open electronic voting to resident electors as well as to Swiss citizens abroad (about 71 000 in Geneva and 21 000 in Neuchâtel). The other 10 cantons (Berne, Lucerne, Fribourg, Solothurn, Basel-Stadt, Schaffhausen, St Gallen, Graubünden, Aargau and Thurgau) limit testing to Swiss citizens living abroad. The Swiss electorate numbers about 5 180 000 people. In relation to this figure, the number of electors participating in electronic voting trials represents about 3.3 %, about a third of the maximum authorised by the national electorate Regulation on Political Rights (Ordonnance sur les Droits Politiques - ODP).
The new legal bases, on which the organisation of electronic voting trials is based, entered into force on 15 January 2014. The relevant provisions of the ODP have been revised and the Federal Chancellery has enacted a new ordinance on electronic voting (OVotE). Under the new provisions, the Federal Council may, following a relevant request, authorise a canton to use electronic voting for a number of federal elections or for a maximum period (Art. 27a para. 3 ODP). This general authorisation limits the geographical areas and the dates during which the canton may use electronic voting.
The canton which has obtained a general authorisation must also apply to the Federal Chancellery for approval for each election in which it will use electronic voting (Art. 27e ODP). The Federal Chancellery will approve this procedure if the conditions set by federal law are met.