A Swiss journalist has been found guilty of electoral fraud for voting twice electronically – once as a Swiss resident and again as a Swiss citizen living abroad – as part of a TV report on flaws in the voting system.
The Federal Criminal Court in Bellinzona in canton Ticino rejected an appeal by the Swiss public television (RTS) journalist, and gave him a two-year suspended sentence and a CHF400 ($400) fine. The 47-year-old can appeal against this decision within 30 days.
The RTS reporter had voted twice in federal and cantonal elections on March 8, 2015. He had received voting material twice by error – once as a Swiss resident and once as a Swiss abroad, after he moved house.
The journalist, whose TV report on this flaw in the voting system was shown on March 9external link, argued that he believed the computer voting system would prevent his second vote.
However, the judge rejected this, saying he voted a second time knowing that he was not authorised to do so, as he had used up this right as a Swiss resident.
“Subjectively,” the accused knew that voting more than once was a crime and “this is clearly stressed in the voting cards provided to voters,” the court went on.
The court said the accused “knew it was highly likely that the computer system would not block his vote”.
Handed himself in
The journalist had contacted the Geneva Chancellery, responsible for cantonal voting matters, to denounce himself three hours after voting for a second time.
Three weeks later, however, the Chancellery filed a complaint against him for electoral fraud to the Geneva Attorney General’s Office. The case was sent to the Federal Prosecutor’s Office in Bern.
RTS said it 'regretted the court's decision which limits media's right to inform the public and prevents investigative journalistic work'.
"By demonstrating a flaw in Geneva's e-voting system, the journalist revealed a problem that was of major public interest," RTS stated on Tuesday.
While the court acknowledged the TV report was of public interest, it said it was not necessary or useful for the accused to “exercise the right to vote twice electronically”. He could have chosen another way of illustrating the flaw in the voting system without breaking the law, it declared.
It added that although the vote was not manipulated, its integrity had been threatened.
The journalists' union Impressum and the Reporters sans Frontières association denounced an attack on freedom of information.
Impressum said had offered its support to the journalist to 'appeal to the European Court of Human Rights against this outrageous decision'.