Supreme Court orders PPA investigation into alleged Lüganuse vote-buying

Supreme Court building in Tartu.
Supreme Court building in Tartu. Source: Supreme Court of Estonia

The Supreme Court has ordered the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) to launch a criminal investigation into a complaint concerning alleged vote-buying involving a Center Party candidate during the e-vote in an Ida-Viru County municipality. The court, however, dismissed the complainant's call for the annulment of the e-vote.

The applicant, Andrea Eiche, who ran in the local elections himself and is mayor of the municipality, lodged an appeal with the State Electoral Committee (VVK) on October 20, claiming that the e-vote in that municipality should be declared null and void due to alleged vote-buying activities.

The Supreme Court, however, found the allegations lacked sufficient proof to annul the results, though the court ordered that the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) investigate a potential criminal offense, the violation of the freedom to vote, a Riigikogu press release states.

The Supreme Court found establishing whether an offense had been committed as not within the VVK's competence; its ability to obtain and assess evidence is limited, and it must resolve s dispute within three days, the court found.

The applicant had flagged alleged inability of the VVK to ascertain how many e-votes had been cast from a store in the municipality and also from a school's IP address, to specific candidates.

The court found that associating an IP address with a particular vote for a particular candidate, however, would violate the principle of confidentiality in voting, since it would no longer guarantee anonymity of that vote.

This means that neither the VVK nor other state agencies have the right to process such data, the court found – though it does not preclude the processing of data which cannot be attributed to a specific candidate; for example which IP address a vote was cast from, what time it was cast and, if cast multiple times (the e-voting system allows voters to cast and re-cast votes within the advance voting period as many times as they wish), how many times the vote was cast.

The Supreme Court did agree with the VVK's stance that multiple individuals are not barred from using the same internet connection or the same device in casting an e-vote vote.

This means that data on an IP addresses alone, along with the complainant's allegations, would not have provided the VVK with sufficient information or grounds to invalidate the results of the e-vote.

The complainant claimed that members of the public had been "persuaded" to cast an e-vote for a Center Party candidate, both at the Kiviõli Russian School and at a nearby store, with the latter providing gifts in return for doing so.

The complainant stated that the school's principle, holding a position of power, should not induce teachers or students to vote for them.

The minimum voting age in the local elections is 16.

The Supreme Court has also resolved all other complaints arising from the October 17 local elections and their advance voting period of October 11-16, with the exception of a criminal investigation into alleged vote-buying in the eastern city of Narva.

When all complaints are resolved, the election results are declared officially.

The results as they stand are here.

Estonia's e-voting system is one of the flagship aspects of the e-Estonia state and as such much-vaunted and reported on internationally.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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