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Working group proposes: Four-year experiment with internet voting in municipal referenda

Published 22.4.2015

The working group for internet voting proposes to the ministerial working group on public administration and regional development that an experiment with internet voting is carried out in connection with consultative municipal referenda. According to the proposal, the experiment would be carried out in connection with the advance voting in municipal referenda during a fixed-term of four years. The experiment is estimated to take place during the years 2016-2020.

To enable the experiment, the working group proposes that an internet voting system is developed as a part of the democracy-related web services of the Ministry of Justice. The system would be introduced gradually and developed as transparently as possible. The costs for developing an internet voting system suitable for the experiment are estimated to be around EUR 2.4 million. The experiment would also require certain legislative amendments.

For a successful introduction of internet voting, it is of utmost importance that citizens trust the internet voting system. The objective of the experiment is to give citizens an opportunity to become familiar with internet voting and enhance their trust in it.

During the experiment period, municipalities would be able to decide on a case-by-case basis whether internet voting is used in the advance voting and whether the current postal voting system is used in parallel with it. Voters would be allowed to vote several times on the internet, in which case the latest vote would be valid and replace any earlier votes. However, a vote cast at a polling station on election day would always replace both a postal ballot and an internet vote.

The working group proposes that the internet voting system developed for consultative municipal referenda could be used by the municipalities free of charge. This would provide the municipalities with a more cost-efficient way to arrange municipal referenda, which could increase the number of referenda and enhance the citizens' involvement in democratic decision-making.

During the last twenty years, municipal referenda have been arranged a total of 60 times, mostly in connection with municipal mergers.

The possibilities to introduce internet voting in general elections must be examined separately

The proposal of the working group does not concern general elections, i.e. municipal elections, European elections, parliamentary elections, presidential elections and State referenda. The working group considers it to be too early to examine the possibilities to introduce internet voting in general elections at this stage. The possible decision on the development of a system suitable for general elections and on the introduction of internet voting in them is to be made separately on the basis of the experiences gained from the experiment.

According to the feasibility study conducted by the working group, internet voting in consultative municipal referenda could be enabled by using a rather simple internet voting system, whereas the information security requirements for an internet voting system suitable for general elections are much more advanced. The costs for developing an internet voting system suitable for general elections would be multiple compared to the costs for a system suitable for consultative municipal referenda.

Internet voting in Estonia

Estonia is the only country in the world where all voters have been able to vote on the internet in general elections since 2005. Many countries around the world have experimented with internet voting. However, internet voting is still quite rare, and it does not seem likely that it would be introduced on a larger scale in the near future.

As for our neighbouring countries, Norway has concluded its experiment with internet voting. Sweden is planning to set up a working group to prepare internet voting.

Further information:
chairman of the working group, Committee Counsellor Kirsi Pimiä, tel. 09 432 2108, e-mail: firstname.lastname@eduskunta.fi,
deputy chairman of the working group, Senior Specialist Olli-Pekka Rissanen, tel. 02955 30364, e-mail: firstname.lastname@vm.fi
secretary of the working group, Senior Officer Heini Huotarinen, tel. 02951 50127, e-mail: firstname.lastname@om.fi

Keywords

voting, elections
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