A Final Note on Estonia's I-Voting

The Estonian Internet voting trail has ended and the government has posted a series of PowerPoint presentations about the trial. The first PowerPoint presentation gives an overview of the electoral system in Estonia. Here, several facets of the electoral process are quite interesting.

  • Elections to the Presidency, the national parliament, and the European Parliament are on different schedules. The President serves a 5-year term but the national parliament is on a 4-year term.
  • There is a clear governance structure at the National, county, and polling station levels for overseeing the elections. (Also, Estonia has about 650 polling places, or about 8 times fewer than exist in Los Angeles County).
  • Estonians disenfranchise individuals in prison and also seem to have a form of felony disenfranchisement, but it is discretionary, not compulsory.

Procedurally, the election is different as well.

  • Critically, the state registers voters. Voters are sent their polling place cards 20 days before the election.
  • The state does early voting, but much more broadly than we do on the U.S. For the 13th-9th days before the election, there is one early voting site per county.
  • For the 6th-4th days before the election, every polling place is open for early voting!
  • Voters can also vote outside their polling place of residence in early voting.
  • Internet voting was allowed during the advanced voting period.

The second PowerPoint presentation examined the Internet voting system used in the election. We reviewed this in a previous blog entry, but it would likely be of interest to those who want to know what a very high-level Internet voting architecture description looks like.

The final PowerPoint examines e-voting in Estonia from a social and legal perspective. Several findings are quite interesting.

  • First, the penetration of the Internet in Estonia is not as high as it is in the U.S. 41% of Estonian households have a computer, with 82% of these computers connected to the Internet. By contrast, 61% of households in the US have computers and 88 percent of those computers are internet-connected.
  • Not surprisingly, support for e-voting is highest among those who use the Internet daily and lowest among those who do not use the Internet. Only 13 percent of Internet users are against e-voting, compared to 26 percent of non-Internet users.
  • A survey of Estonians in both 2004 and 2005 found that support for poll site voting declined from 2004 to 2005. However, those who were sure they would prefer to e-vote stayed the same. (The switch was in two questions giving both options but preference for one over the other. There e-voting scored well in direct comparison to poll site voting).
  • Internet voting has very high support (64-66 percent) from those 15-34, but poll site voting has similar support (64-72 percent) from those 50 to 74.