After an international team of experts identified "serious security vulnerabilities" in Estonia's Internet voting system and recommended its immediate withdrawal, the Center Party released a statement to demand the cancelling of e-voting in the upcoming European elections. The officials of the electoral committee maintain the vote will go ahead.
The problems, referred to as "alarming", included lax and inconsistent operational security, insufficient transparency measures for proving an honest count, and a software design that was vulnerable to attack from foreign powers, the experts said on Tuesday.
The Center Party’s Secretary General Priit Toobal released a statement the same day, asking the authorities on the state and European level to cancel electronic voting in the European elections due to the security threats highlighted by the experts.
The head of the National Electoral Committee Alo Heinsalu told ETV’s news program Aktuaalne Kaamera that the early vote will begin on Thursday as planned, with the electronic option as well as the physical polling stations.
He said Estonia has tested and improved the system of e-voting over 10 years and is prepared for all kinds of attacks, and also expressed surprise that the criticisms were made so shortly before the elections.
He did not speculate about the possible drop in voter turnout if electronic voting is banned.
The team members were officially accredited to observe the Estonian Internet voting system during the October 2013 municipal elections, they said in a statement. The group said it received a grant from the United States' National Science Foundation to carry out the research. It also received money from the Tallinn City Council, ruled by the Center Party, to cover its lodging and expenses during its observer mission in 2013.
Editor-in-chief of Digi Magazine Henrik Roonemaa said the experts and their research are not independent, because their material does not convince readers as serious research, since their website only contains dramatic footage and no in-depth technical reporting.
He told ETV’s program Ringvaade on Tuesday that no system is 100-percent safe, and it is natural that there are experts who test the system and criticize it, as well as political parties opposing the vote.
“What is not natural is coming up with accusations like these a few days before voting begins. [...] If anyone wants to reproach the Estonian state, this is not the way to do it,” he said.
Roonemaa said it is not clear that the experts have been hired by the Center Party and called on caution with accusations, however, he did find the timing of the report surprising and said it causes unnecessary panic so shortly before the elections.
According to Roonemaa, there are no grounds for thinking the upcoming e-voting is unsafe.
The statement of the Center Party was sent to President Toomas Hendrik Ilves, Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas, Secretary of State Heiki Loot, head of the National Electoral Committee Alo Heinsalu, Speaker of Parliament Heiki Nestor, Chief Justice Priit Pikamäe, Chancellor of Justice Indrek Teder and Auditor General Alar Karis. It was also sent to President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz, President of the European Council Herman van Rompuy and President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso.