Since 2005 Estonia has been making headlines globally because of its successful i-voting system.
Recently, the Baltic state set a new record after achieving 44,4% of online participation in its Parliamentary Elections. This is an increase of 40% in voter turnout over the Internet compared to the same elections in 2015.
From February 21 to March 3, Estonians had the chance to cast their ballot online, as they have had for the last fourteen years. Digital political participation has skyrocketed (to almost half of the ballots cast online now) in a country which takes pride in being an e-government reference for the world.
Experts concur there are five main reasons behind the i-voting success in Estonia:
- The online system has proven to be easy, reliable, and convenient for remote voting, particularly during the early voting period.
- Voters have options adapted to their needs. For instance, i-voting is not only an option available, but it also has the advantage that voters can change their choice during the early voting period digitally or at a polling station as many times as they would like. The last cast ballot will be the only one that counts.
- The government, election authorities, and technology providers recognize potential cybersecurity threats during elections, and they are committed to acting upon them. Detect, deter, and mitigate cyber-attacks (risk management) are key priorities.
- The system continually improves its security Encryption methods, blockchain, PIN codes, timestamps, and digital certificates, are just a few of the election technology concepts; that Estonian voters are now aware of, during the voting cycle.
- When voters and all other stakeholders trust the election authorities and the technology in use, it is easier to implement new tools that enhance election integrity.
R&D, a critical ally
The Smartmatic–Cybernetica Centre of Excellence for Internet Voting has been researching and developing updates to the Estonian i-voting system since 2014.
The joint venture headquartered in Tartu is committed to establishing a first-rate standard for online voting globally. Smartmatic’s CEO, Antonio Mugica, has noted “Our system was developed to meet the needs of the Estonian people to provide accessibility, convenience, and security. Our engineers facilitate a seamless, free, secure and transparent vote that has also proven to be cost-efficient and convenient.”
The upcoming May European parliamentary elections will be the next milestone for Estonia i-voting system. Voters and authorities will be looking at whether the country finally reaches 50 percent of votes cast online.