Launched in 2005, i-voting has been steadily gaining popularity, and in the last election, 47% of Estonian voters chose to vote online. This represents a considerable increase compared to the 2017 local elections. Estonians can now cast a ballot from their living room for local, national, and even European elections.
The i-voting solution was developed to provide an additional voting channel that is accessible, convenient, and secure. It is also proven to be cost-efficient. It is one of several channels offered to Estonian voters. Estonians can also cast their ballot by mail and traditional pen-and-paper voting at polling locations. In Canada, this would include the Embassy in Ottawa.
Online voting not only increases participation, but it also reduces the government’s cost to operate elections. According to a 2018 study conducted by Tallinn University of Technology in Estonia, an electronic ballot submitted via the internet can cost the country 10 times less than a vote cast in advance at a polling location.
This system allows voters to cast their ballots from any internet-connected computer anywhere in the world, meaning citizens living abroad can do so as well. During a designated pre-voting period, the voter logs into the system using their government-issued e-ID and casts a ballot. The voter’s identity is removed from the ballot before it reaches the National Electoral Commission for counting, thereby ensuring anonymity. Since 2017, 16 and 17-year-old citizens have been eligible to vote in local elections.
All Estonian citizens who use the i-vote solution can vote multiple times, but only the last vote is sent to the tabulation and ultimately counted. Any vote in-person prevails over any online vote by that same person. The objective of this strategy is to mitigate coercion. If a voter is forced to vote in a certain way, the voter can change their vote in another session.
What is most impressive is that even with Russia’s tactics of information warfare and cyber warfare, Estonian elections have consistently been determined free and fair by observers, with no major allegations of interference.
Why can’t Canada adopt such a system? Unfortunately, we have a long way to go. The only reason Estonia’s system has been successful is due to the use of ID cards and the security surrounding that system. i-voting is just the final step in many processes that need to be in place first. But for Estonians around the world, we have the option to vote online in the upcoming Parliamentary elections next spring.
[EE: More info about how Estonian citizens can take part in i-voting can be found on the Valimised Eestis website and on the website of the Embassy of Estonia in Ottawa.]