Internet voting has been adopted by a growing number of countries around the world, including Estonia, Australia, Switzerland, Mexico, and Canada. In these countries, Internet voting has improved electoral participation and increased transparency and confidence in the electoral process. Overall, Internet voting is an innovative and increasingly popular way to participate in democracy, and its adoption will continue to grow in the future.
However, it is also important to note that not all countries have adopted this type of voting in the same way. In some, it is only used in local or primary elections, while in others it is used in national and general elections. In addition, some countries limit it to certain groups of voters, such as people with disabilities or residents abroad.
Despite the advantages offered by this voting system, it is important that concerns about the security and integrity of the electoral process are adequately addressed, and that effective measures are put in place to ensure that Internet voting is secure and reliable.
Estonia at the forefront of online voting
The 2019 general election in this Baltic country was a watershed moment for its democracy and for the adoption of internet voting worldwide. With a record turnout of 63.67% of voters, these elections marked a milestone in political history and showed the country’s determination on its path toward a more advanced and technologically sophisticated democracy. Four out of ten Estonians cast their votes from the comfort of their homes and via the Internet. This is significant, as since 2005, it was the first country in the world to use internet voting in a national election. In addition, the implementation of this system was relatively easy and there were no reports of fraud or serious technical problems.
Estonia is the most digitized country in the world. The policy has been geared toward establishing e-governance, a system that favors the use of technology over the paper. This has enabled great advances in society since the Data Protection Act was passed in 1996 and the first internet bank was created. In addition, governments have implemented cyber strategies in the areas of health, identity, education, democracy, and taxation, among others. “If the internet had a postal code, it would most likely be here in Estonia,” said Toomas Hendrik Ilves, president of the Baltic country between 2006 and 2016.
The use of Internet voting in Estonia has also had a positive impact on political transparency. By enabling greater participation and a better understanding of the results, such voting has improved confidence in the electoral process and increased transparency in political decision-making.
How are we doing in Latin America?
In the countries that constitute the region, progress has been made in different modalities to make voting more technical. In the case of Brazil, this electronic system has been used since the end of the last century for its elections, where, despite having a significant number of voters, both the scrutiny and counting of votes have proven to be effective.
In Mexico, the National Electoral Institute (INE) has created an electronic ballot box that was recently put into practice, while for many years, the electoral institutes of Chihuahua, Mexico City, Coahuila, and Jalisco have developed models that have already been tested and have been evolving.
The INE has also used internet voting, that is, unassisted electronic voting that can be carried out from a computer or smart device to vote from abroad. The experience has been positive; however, this system faces an important variable: the digital disconnection in certain segments of voters, where the lack of expertise can become an enemy for the citizen participation of people over 50 years old, or for people who, due to poverty condition, have no relationship with electronic media.
Elements such as anonymity, privacy, and audibility are key, as well as end-to-end encryption, to ensure that Internet voting can become a reality. Political parties and agents of influence must be aware of the Internet voting systems developed by the electoral authorities. Refusing to accept that globalization has overtaken us is inappropriate and extremely costly.
Today, political campaigns have focused on the digital. The lime paint-based billboards and the banners hung on lampposts remain in the memory. The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated, to a great extent, the use of technological tools that we had been using since the beginning of the century.
*Translated from Spanish by Janaína Ruviaro da Silva