Estonia is quite unique in its digital capabilities, and Estonians are certainly among the most willing users of e-services in the world. It may seem surprising that everything that seems elementary in Estonia today is still the music of the future in the rest of the world.
One of these capabilities is e-elections or the possibility of electronic voting without leaving home or from the other end of the world, even from the beach or a ski jump tower. Did you know that Estonia is the first country in the world to implement e-voting in a nationwide election?
Estonia has been able to cast votes electronically since 2005 – while the percentage of e-voters was less than 2% at the time, the percentage of e-voters in the 2019 Parliament elections was 43.8% and should account for the majority of the votes cast in the coming years.
What is the process of electronic voting?
Electronic voting, or e-voting, takes place during the advance voting period and starts on the tenth day before the day of the election at 09:00 a.m. and ends on the fourth day before the day of the election at 18:00 p.m. Votes can be cast around the clock.
The voter app will be published on the election web shortly before e-voting begins. There will also be precise instructions for voting.
To e-vote, you need either a mobile-ID or an ID-card and a computer that has the ID-software required to use the ID-card, mobile-ID or ID-card certificate and PIN1 and PIN2 codes. You cannot e-vote with mobile devices or tablets.
The voting process is very simple: you’ll need to sign in to the e-voting app referred to on the election website (using PIN1) and then you’ll be offered the possibility to see the candidates. You don’t need a voter card, and the online e-voting environment automatically provides you with your constituency candidates only. Candidates are grouped by political party on the screen – do not be afraid to click around to explore the possibilities. Don’t be afraid that by accidentally pressing the “Elect” button you might send your vote to the wrong place: to vote, you'll need to re-confirm your selection in a separate window and give your digital signature using the PIN2 code. As long as you have not entered PIN2, your vote has not been given to any candidate.
The results of the e-vote are announced on the night of election day: the e-voting process is public and both the observers and the members of the electoral commission of the Republic are present.
What makes Estonia's e-voting special?
Electronic voting is used in most large countries, but it is generally stationary voting points (so-called kiosks) that need to be physically visited.
Estonian e-voting is internet-based and not dependent on location: if you have the option to use an ID-card or mobile-ID, you are ready to vote.
This is why in texts comparing electronic solutions in Estonia and the rest of the world, the distinction between i-voting and e-voting can also be seen: i or internet-based (e-voting form familiar to Estonians) and e or all electronic (stationary or not) methods.
However, the distinction between e-voting and traditional voting is that e-voters have the opportunity to change their minds: for example, they can vote exactly as many times as they want during advance voting. Only the last vote counts! In the event that an advance-voter votes not only in electronic channels but also in the polling station with a ballot note, the e-votes given before are withdrawn and only the vote given by ballot is valid (and can no longer be changed).
Read more about e-voting at valimised.ee.
For more information on the technical side and security of e-voting see the RIA blog.