Article posted: Jun 07, 2017
By Joakim Thoren, CEO
It's no surprise that as the numbers of places where voters can make their election choices electronically increase so, too, do concerns around security, reliability, privacy and safety. But when you're in our business, you know that the technology certainly exists to ensure electronic voting addresses every one of those concerns.
We recently spied a BBC article about how voting in an upcoming UK general election looks like the dusty old relative when compared with tiny Estonia. In the UK, voters are limited to casting their votes on paper ballots at their typical polling places, such as schools and other public buildings.
Meanwhile, in the Baltic state of Estonia, the UK elections sound like a quaint throwback to times past. That's because Estonia was the first to jump on the electronic voting bandwagon - way back in 2005 - and was the first nation to introduce permanent internet voting for its elections. We've talked a little about Estonia's voting in the past: https://versasec.com/blog/online-smartcard-voting
According to the BBC piece, there are now 14 countries around the world that use some type of electronic voting. But Estonia, located on the northeastern fringes of Europe and bordering Finland, Latvia and Russia, was the trend setter.
And within Estonia, the trend for voting electronically is catching on. The article mentions that while in its first year of electronic voting, less than 2 percent of voters opted to vote using electronic means, that number has been climbing steadily and in its latest parliamentary election nearly one in three Estonian voters cast their ballots online - and they come from all geographies in the country and all social demographics. While it clearly can benefit busy Estonians, who would rather avoid lines at the polls, online voting is also a boon to Estonians who live abroad and for whom absentee voting might be a bit of a hassle.
Alas, while the percentages of eligible voters in any election hasn't changed much by adding in the electronic option, voting officials in Estonia say it's still a great idea to have more options for voters.
Even though Estonia got an early start, the nation has remained on top of security for those who vote electronically. Elections officials review safety and reliability protocols, and they rely heavily on electronic identity cards that are issued to all citizens and residents. Like any smart cards, these digital ID cards ensure the owner can be authenticated online. The Estonian cards also allow for digital signatures to be linked to the account, and newer cards also include copies of the cardholder's fingerprints.
All of this can become a good example for the UK, where the country's Digital Democracy Commission is recommending secure, online voting should be available to all voters by 2020.
While some voters may fret about security and privacy issues, and while changing societal norms can be difficult, experts in the UK point to Estonia's digital ID cards as something worth emulating to alleviate those concerns. We couldn't agree more!