E-Voting Conference in Estonia (2)

Alexander Trechsel presented the results of his study on Estonian local elections in 2005. The goal of the study was determining who votes over the Internet, explain the choice of the vote channel, what is the impact on participation, and does it have political effects, enfranchising one side or another in a biased manner? He did a survey with three samples of voters: e-voters, traditional voters, and non-voters.

The older voters are much less likely to e-vote and the young are more likely to e-vote. However, e-voting did make a slight, but not statistically significant, difference in moving voters who only voted from time to time to vote in the municipal elections. Most voters who cast ballots online would have voted anyway but 15 percent or so would not have voted without the Internet. E-voting was chosen by 75 percent of voters because of its convenience, speed, and simplicity. Another 20 percent voted online because of the novelty. Non-e-voters did not vote online because they viewed it as complex—many had no access—but very few failed to e-vote because of security concerns.

They then estimated three models to determine the factors that shaped e-voting use and impact in Estonia.

  • In a socio-demographic model—examining e-voting use using demographic variables—they found that e-voting use can be explained by age, education, income, and language (Russians voted less).
  • When you examine a political model—which focuses on ideology and trust in government—the more you have trust in government the more you are prone to vote and trust in the state you are more likely to vote online.
  • In a ICT model (Internet Communication and Technology), the computer literacy of the voter increased Internet voting, as did trust in internet transactions and trust in procedures in voting.
  • In a full model, with all three models included, language made a very large difference, with Russian speaking Estonians, computing knowledge and trust in e-voting very important variables. All political variables and most socio-demographic variables lose significance. Age interesting variable; young people used the Internet more, but there is an important body of older, computer literate people who really want to vote using the Internet. Knowledgeable older voters choose to vote online at relative large rates, all things being equal.

Alexander notes three key aspects of his results:

  • First, it is computer knowledge, not internet access, that boosts the use of Internet voting.

  • Second, trust in e-voting is central to the use of e-voting.
  • Third, the non-results are also important: the demographic factors are relevant but not significant in the analysis of the 2005 experience with e-voting.

Alexander closed by making a set of recommendations:

  1. Internet communications and technology are important for e-voting. As you develop other aspects of the information society, it will improve electronic voting.
  2. The Estonian model can serve as a best practice in many regards for nations around the world.
  3. Language inclusiveness is important for making e-voting work well and be fair for all citizens.
  4. There is also a need to extend the voting period for e-voting so that the process of e-voting is more effective. This would make e-voting in Estonia more closely resemble e-voting in Switzerland.