Electoral Committee: Face verification idea not bad, but expensive

E-elections. Source: (ERR)

The chairman of the National Electoral Committee Oliver Kask does not consider the idea proposed by IT minister Raul Siem (EKRE) to use face identification for electronic voter verification a bad one, but it would make the system much more expensive. Kask said a mobile phone voting option would be cheaper.

Kask told ERR that Minister of Foreign Trade and ID Trade Raul Siem has not introduced his idea to the electoral committee and the State Electoral Service yet and it is still unclear, which problem the minister is attempting to solve.

"The minister's proposal means amending several electoral acts and the Public Information Act. Firstly, we would want to see an analysis of what is behind this change. The ministry has not published an intention to develop a draft law yet," Kask said.

Siem said face identification could cut out voter fraud. "We've all heard the speculation where ID cards have been used by other people," Siem said, noting that his proposed system would get round potential manipulation or voter fraud.

Kask said that voting for someone else is a criminal offense. "If anyone has any information that something like this has occured, they should certainly inform the police. /.../ Our practice has not shown these problems, brought them forth. The police has no data regarding such violations," the electoral committee director said.

Kask noted that voter face verification would bring great changes. "Certainly, the addition of face identification would bring updates to computer hardware as well as supplemental software. The current e-elections, e-voting can only happen by computer and not by mobile phone, but many computers do not have the cameras required for face identification," he said.

"Secondly, voting software would be given permissions to hardware and different information systems, also including galleries at the minimum. Such relationships to different programs, software apps has not been developed," Kask said.

He added that if electronic face verification be developed, it would also depend on communication between different programs, which brings additional security risks. "It would certainly need analysis by IT specialists - if and how it is possible," Kask said.

The electoral committe head assessed that updates to currently available e-election programs might not be ready for next October's local elections. He added that it would be easier to vote by mobile phone instead.

"When it comes to a solution to this, then especially, if we were to come back to creating an opportunity to vote by mobile phone, which has not been done yet because of security risks, then mobile voting can perhaps remove this problem for people. If we were to demand that computers need to have computers, then many people might not be able to take part in e-elections, because their computers do not have the right camera. Mobile phones would not have this problem as much and the change would be easier," Kask said.

He does not consider the idea of face verification bad: "Perhaps the idea to use face verification is not bad at all. The situation where regional committee employees have to identify people based on their documents is not problem-free either, there can still be human mistakes. This kind of biometric identification could also be a solution in regional voting departments. The system would certainly be more expensive. This is a point of political choice - how much do we want to invest in something?" Kask said.

Former prime minister and current Reform Party MP Taavi Rõivas said that Center Party was in opposition of e-voting to gain points previously, but now it is being done by EKRE.

"To say that the current ID-card is unsafe or it needs something welded on politically, I would say it is irresponsible to put it lightly and sends a signal of Raul Siem not knowing how the ID-card or digital ID works," Rõivas said.

Andrei Korobeinik, member of EKRE's partner in coalition Center Party, said e-voting can certainly be made more secure and comfortable. At the same time, user experience also plays a large part next to security measures.

"You can offer up anything on the idea level, but once it goes to carrying ideas out, you have to see if the proposal is adequately operational, because if it makes voting uncomfortable, even when compared to regular voting, then it is not reasonable," Korobeinik said.


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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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