Supreme Court dismisses all election complaints

Supreme Court of Estonia in Tartu.
Supreme Court of Estonia in Tartu. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Estonia's top court on Thursday dismissed all the remaining complaints filed in connection with the March 5 Riigikogu election and the official results can now be declared. The Supreme Court also suggested additional rules for e-voting need to be added to the Constitution.

Today, the Supreme Court rejected appeals submitted by ERKE, the United Left Party of Estonia (EÜVP) and EÜVP party candidate Oleg Ivanov related to e-voting and its compliance with the Constitution.

Two of EKRE's complaints were submitted after the deadline and were not reviewed.

However, justices did address and explain the possible constitutional problems related to electronic voting raised by the complaint.

The Supreme Court's Constitutional Review Board, which dealt with the complaints, said the rules are specified by the Riigikogu Election Act but mainly managed by the State Electoral Office and National Electoral Committee. This can make the process difficult to understand, even by people with good legal knowledge.

EKRE Chairman Martin Helme. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

The board acknowledged that technology moves rapidly but said the rules still need to be written down in sufficient detail to ensure compliance and public confidence in elections.

EÜVP's appeal about voter identification was also dismissed as the court said regulations are not broken when counting e-votes. The different methods of counting paper and online ballots are not in conflict with the Constitution, it said.

Supreme Court: E-voting rules need constant monitoring

Since the start of Estonia's e-voting policy, voters, observers, candidates and political parties have repeatedly questioned the reliability and compliance of electronic voting with the Constitution.

The majority of complaints have been related to technical errors that occurred during voting, human errors made during the organization of elections, and mistrust caused by difficulties understanding the organization and technical side of e-voting.

E-voting in the 2023 Riigikogu elections. Source: Aili Vahtla/ERR

So far, the system has been well enough protected that the National Electoral Committee has never had to cancel, suspend or terminate e-voting.

"Due to continuous technological development and growing societal expectations, the organization of electronic voting needs continuous attention from the legislator and the executive. This is especially the case in a situation where more than half of the electorate already prefers this method of voting," the Supreme Court stressed.

Chief justice: Constitutional review procedure should be initiated

Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Villu Kõve agreed with the decision to dismiss the appeals.

But he said a constitutional review procedure should be initiated to assess the e-voting rules in relation to the Constitution and to stop future complaints.

Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Villu Kõve Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

"This complainant — as well as several other complainants — has raised the question in the course of the elections to the Riigikogu whether the essential rules on electronic voting should be more specifically contained in the law or at least in a government decree, and whether their establishment should not be delegated to the National Electoral Committee and the State Electoral Office. These arguments recur in appeals from election to election and need a clear position from the Supreme Court to end further disputes," Kõve said.

The chief justice said the Supreme Court had highlighted this concern in 2019 but the situation does not seem to have improved.

"I can't say at this stage that I think the current regulation is necessarily unconstitutional, but I think it should at least be properly and thoroughly assessed," Kõve said.

He also said the process could be changed so that the announcement of the election results is not delayed by the Supreme Court decisions.

The court would still have an exceptional right to postpone the announcement and swearing in of the next government only if it was dealing with a case that would change the outcome of the results, he said.


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Editor: Mait Ots, Urmet Kook, Helen Wright

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