Constitutionality of Remote Internet Voting: The Estonian Perspective

Author:Ülle Madise - Priit Vinkel
Position:Professor of Constitutional Law, University of Tartu - Assistant, University of Tartu. Advisor, Elections Department of the Chancellery of Riigikogu
Pages:4-16
SUMMARY

1. Introduction - 2. Description of the concept of Estonian I-voting - 2.1. Electronic Population Register - 2.2. ID card and m-ID - 2.3. System architecture - 2.4. Measures used to ensure voting secrecy - 2.5. ‘Virtual voting booth’ - 3. Analysis of the constitutionality of Internet voting - 3.1. A teleological interpretation of the principle of secrecy - 3.2. Increase of turnout - 3.3.... (see full summary)

 
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4JURIDICA INTERNATIONAL XVIII/2011
Ülle Madise Priit Vinkel
Professor of Constitutional Law Assistant, University of Tartu
University of Tartu Advisor, Elections Department
of the Chancellery of Riigikogu
Constitutionality of Remote
Internet Voting:
The Estonian Perspective
1. Introduction
Estonia has used remote Internet-based voting in ve elections: twice each in municipal and Riigikogu
(parliamentary) elections and once in European Parliament elections. The number of ‘I-voters’ has grown
sharply from less than 10,000 in 2005’s municipal elections to over 140,000 in the 2011 parliamentary elec-
tions. The latter account for 24.3% of all votes cast and 56.4% of the advance votes. Initially, no individual
complaints claiming unconstitutionality of I-voting were led in court. In 2011, the situation has changed:
critical public debate has re-emerged, followed by several complaints.
Only Estonia, Switzerland, Norway and a few other countries allow legally binding remote I-voting,
though some countries are on their way toward its countrywide use. The list of countries that have aban-
doned the use of e-voting in various forms is much longer, including the US, Germany, Finland, and the
Netherlands.*1 France, for example, tries to keep alive the tradition of voting only at the polling station, as
this ritualises citizenship*2, but has allowed proxy voting and recently remote I-voting from abroad. The
reasons for allowing or giving up on I-voting are different, but constitutional questions of whether fair and
free voting can be secured in the case of remote I-voting have always been raised.
We are facing the pressure of the information society*3: people require e-services, yet, on the other
hand, cyber-threats are more serious than ever before.*4 Social changes have already forced countries to
allow remote postal or proxy voting.*5 We have to admit that holding on to old traditions (one single elec-
1 See the database for the Competence Center for Electronic Voting and Participation, at http://db.e-voting.cc/. German
constitutional court decision to declare the use of voting machines unconstitutional: BVerfG, 2 BvC 3/07 vom 3.3.2009,
Absatz-Nr. (1-163). Available at http://www.bverfg.de/entscheidungen/cs20090303_2bvc000307.html (9.10.2011). The
core of the decision in German:
Der Grundsatz der Öffentlichkeit der Wahl aus Art. 38 in Verbindung mit Art. 20 Abs. 1 und Abs. 2 GG gebietet, dass
alle wesentlichen Schritte der Wahl öffentlicher Überprüfbarkeit unterliegen, soweit nicht andere verfassungsrechtliche
Belange eine Ausnahme rechtfertigen.
Beim Einsatz elektronischer Wahlgeräte müssen die wesentlichen Schritte der Wahlhandlung und der Ergebnisermit-
tlung vom Bürger zuverlässig und ohne besondere Sachkenntnis überprüft werden können.
2 L. Monnoyer-Smith. How I-voting technology challenges traditional concepts of citizenship: An analysis of French voting
rituals. – R. Krimmer (ed.). Electronic Voting 2006: 2nd International Workshop Co-organised by the Council of Europe,
ESF TED, IFIP WG 8.6, and E-Voting.CC. Bonn: Gesellschaft für Informatik 2006, pp. 63–64.
3 W. Drechsler. Dispatch from the Future. – The Washington Post, 5.11.2006.
4 J. Farwell, R. Rohozinski. Stuxnet and the Future of Cyber War. – Survival 2011 (53) 1, pp. 23–40.
5 See, e.g., the thorough overview of remote postal voting in N. Kersting. Briefwahl im Internationalen Vergleich. – Öster-
reichische Zeitschrift für Politikwissenschaft 2004 (33) 3, pp. 325–328.

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