Friday, June 20, 2014

Estonia furthers its position as worldwide I-voting leader

Image: E-lected archive
Although Estonia’s I-voting system is now regarded as one of the most technologically advanced in the world, authorities in the Baltic nation are still seeking ways to enhance its transparency and efficiency so in future elections, more voters can enjoy the convenience of casting a vote online. 

To such end, Smartmatic along with Cybernetica have recently created the Center of Excellence in Internet Voting, which will focus on further developing the I-voting platform existing since 2005. This initiative will certainly help improve the system already in place, and could very well pave the way for Estonia to begin sharing its I-voting experience with other governments around the world –Estonia is already recognized as a worldwide reference for e-government.

Academics and professional experts from multiple fields that worked during the development stages of the Estonian Internet voting platform will be part of the team making this initiative a reality. They will be analyzing I-voting from all possible perspectives: legal framework, system design, development, security, cryptography, among others.  

Besides some of the obvious advantages remote voting offers (cost reduction and convenience), there are other important issues, which have been a headache of electoral commissions for ages, that Internet voting can help improving: participation –specially among young voters-, accessibility, and inclusion.

Estonia’s I-voting system has shown important advances in terms of increasing voter turnout. For example, during the recent EU parliamentary elections, the turnout of I-voters was the highest ever it has been - 31.3% (103k voters), compared to the 14.7% (58k voters) recorded in the previous EU election. It is important to note that voting online is optional as voters can go on Election Day and cast a ballot in their neighboring precinct, even if they had already voted via Internet. 

Estonia remains the only country in the world to successfully hold nationwide legally binding e-elections. Even though some countries have run trial elections, not a single one has been able to produce the results the Estonian I-voting system have shown in terms of adoption and turnout.

Media expert Raul Rebane celebrated Estonia’s I-voting turnout affirming that “For a large share of young and middle-aged Estonians, e-voting is part of Estonia’s image, identity, DNA. We began to defend something very important, which was under threat for purely political reasons.”