Thursday, March 01, 2007

E-lection in Estonia

Postimees reports that as of this morning, 35,605 Estonians have already voted in the parliamentary election which takes place formally on Sunday. They did so via the Web. Estonia is the first country in the world to hold such a parliamentary election by a web-based system in which voters can cast ballots online. The process involves a card reader hooked up to a computer - the voters swipe their electronic ID cards through the reader, and that registers the vote on the website. AFP noted yesterday, Wednesday, that

The 940,000 Estonians eligible to vote in Sunday’s parliamentary election can cast their ballot electronically until Wednesday. After that, they will have to wait until Sunday to vote in the more traditional manner.

In response to fears from critics of possible pressure at home or in the workplace on e-voters, the law provides voters with a chance to override their Internet vote on election day by filling in a paper ballot.

“The opportunity to change the e-vote should dissuade those who are thinking of pressuring Internet voters,” Madise said.

The AFP report also says that the new online voting system presents some problems for election monitors. A representative of the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) is quoted as saying that although her organization can ask questions about transparency and security, it will be very difficult to get into the system itself, as that would require a high level of technical expertise not available to most monitors. In the end, she says, it boils down to a question of trust: the system will only be effective if it has the trust of the electorate. Ivar Tallo, director of the e-Governance Academy in Tallinn says that since Estonians already trust their financial transactions to the Internet by filing tax returns online and transferring money via online banks, there’s no reason for them not to trust their vote to the Internet.

See also in this blog: e-Governance
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