Estonia and I-Voting

November 4, 2019

Electronic voting as becoming a popular way to conduct elections but what would electronic voting actually look like on a national level?

Estonia and I-Voting

Estonia is the first country to allow for electronic voting (or i-voting) in conjunction with paper ballots for a nation-wide election. Estonia’s i-voting has been in place since 2005. I-voting is on the upward trend in use in these Estonian elections, as 43% of the votes for the 2019 election were cast using this method!

While this is all fascinating and exciting, you might be wondering how their voting system works. Essentially, voters in Estonia have an ID card that they can use to log into the online voting system during a designated voting period. When the vote is submitted it becomes encrypted so it is impossible to see who the voter voted for. After the ballot is cast the voter’s identity is separated from the ballot to ensure anonymity during the election process. For more information on this process please see this page. Apparently, there were concerns about people’s votes being bought or coerced with this online voting method. To accommodate for potential vote coercion Estonia allows the voter to log into the online voting system and vote as many times as they like. Each time the voters vote, their previous electronic ballot is discarded and replaced with the new one during the advanced voting periof of the elecion.

Once a voter has placed their vote they can verify their vote by using a mobile app that scans a QR code that the voter receieves once they have finished the online voting process. This QR code will allow the voter to view their preferred choice of their mobile right after their vote has been completed. This way the voter can ensure that their vote was registered the way it was intended.

Estonia I-Voting

So, how do they count these electronic “i-votes” and verify the results of the election? Below is the i-voting process as it is outlined on this website:

  1. All i-votes have to be annuled due to changing of i-votes are annulled;
  2. The personal data (digital signatures) of voters are separated from electronic votes. Anonymous votes are subject to counting. An i-vote contains only the election identificator, and a candidate registration number;
  3. I-votes are opened, using the vote-opening key. Access to the key is distributed between the members of the National Electoral Committee;
  4. Votes are counted and the number of votes cast for candidates is ascertained;
  5. The voting results are entered into the election information system.

Interestingly, Estonia appraoched i-voting in an attempt to increase voter turnout. Not only is electronic voting convenient and on the rise in Estonia, but it was also noted that voting electronically is the most cost-efficient voting system that is currently offered in Estonia. Estonia can help to offer a glimpse at what the future of voting might look like. If you are interested in learning more please go and take a look at Estonia’s website on their i-voting!

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