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Ministry working group says 'not yet' to online voting in Finland

The greatest risk in launching electronic voting in Finland is a potential loss of public trust in the country's elections, says a Justice Ministry working group.

Henkilö käyttämässä sähköistä äänestyslaitetta.
File photo of electronic voting system test. Image: Yle

Finland should not consider setting up an online voting system for its elections just yet, according to a Justice Ministry working group. The risks in doing so at this point are much higher than benefits that e-voting might bring, they said.

Some risks the group identified in an online e-voting system include: widespread manipulation of election results, disruption of elections through denial of service attacks and the potential for the loss of voter anonymity through hacks or other methods.

The working group said that while current technology is not yet advanced enough, further development of e-voting technologies could bring new opportunities down the road.

Estonians already vote online

The basic tech to set up an online voting system for elections is possible today. For example, Finland's nearby Baltic neighbour Estonia has utilised e-voting for longer than a decade now.

According to the country's website e-estonia.com, some 30 percent of the Estonian electorate voted through online services in their last elections.

The site states that voting online has saved more than 11,000 working days in potentially lost work hours each time Estonians go to the polls. Some 99 percent of Estonia's public services are accessible online as well.

Online verification poses problems

The Finnish justice ministry working group said the security of online voting is not yet advanced enough to completely ensure voter security and confidentiality without the risk of damaging the integrity of elections.

One of the shortcomings in an electronic election system, the justice ministry working group said, is that it would be difficult to precisely tally the votes while at the same time guaranteeing voter anonymity.

The working group announced its findings on Tuesday afternoon, saying that a voter should be able to receive some kind of confirmation that his or her vote has been received and that the vote was accounted for.

The group said that an online voter system is not yet viable because such confirmation could be used to coerce voters or even sell votes.

The working group estimated that setting up an electronic online voting system that would be functional for 15 years would cost some 32 million euros.

Citing experiences and research from other countries which have already implemented online voting systems, the group said it does not think giving people the opportunity to vote online would increase voter turnout figures.

The group said that electronic voting would help people who live far away from official polling stations, particularly citizens who live abroad. The group said online voting could also be beneficial to people with disabilities or who have a difficult time moving physically to voting stations.

The group said it plans to keep a close eye on developments in e-voting countries and that cooperation between the Nordic countries should be developed, saying that the Nordics consider reliable elections to be a valuable asset.

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