Internet Voting Alive and Well in Europe

Many people have written off Internet voting. After the Department of Defense cancelled SERVE and the critiques of electronic voting became quite intense, little thought was given to this form of voting technology.

However, the Internet voting environment in Europe is much more dynamic than in the United States. Right now, Internet voting is being done nationwide in Estonia. Articles in and the Associated Press discuss the system and its functionalities. The Estonian system is just one part of a larger e-government system that provides all residents with a digital signature on a key card that is used for a person to authenticate themselves (in conjunction with a PIN) for a wide array of government services, like filing taxes. The government in Estonia has been quite supportive of expanded e-government, obviously, and with 1.3 million voters, they are at a scale that allows them to conduct full trials of e-voting that would be equivalent to testing it in a medium to small state here in the U.S.

As the Financial Mirror describes the system:

The proposed e-voting process is relatively simple: you sit at a computer, slide your ID card through an electronic reader which calls up a special election website showing candidates in your constituency, and then select one with the click of a mouse. To confirm your choice, you must enter a PIN number – and that’s it. The biggest difference compared to a paper ballot is that the voter can think over his decision and change it a countless number of times before the polls close. Alternatively, he or she can go into a polling station and fill out a traditional ballot slip – thereby canceling the e-vote.

Everything is not all wine and roses in Europe with Internet voting. In the UK, Internet voting trials scheduled for 2006 are being postponed because of concerns about fraud that arose in all-mail-paper balloting this year and last, and because small-scale trials have been expensive in the past.

Still, the Estonia experience may raise interesting issues about Internet voting. The success of the Estonians may lead other smaller European nations to follow suit and move to the e-government, e-voting bandwagon.