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Center Party wants to shorten e-voting period

An elderly woman placing her paper ballot into a secure ballot box.
An elderly woman placing her paper ballot into a secure ballot box. Source: (Urmas Luik/Pärnu Postimees)

The Center Party is interested in shortening the e-voting period from its current seven days to just three, justifying it as not giving e-voters preferential treatment over voters at polling stations.

The number of e-voters in Estonia has grown year after year. While just six percent of voters cast their votes electronically in the Riigikogu elections ten years ago, four years later that number had grown to nearly a quarter of all votes, and in the most recent Riigikogu elections nearly one in three votes was cast electronically, reported ETV news broadcast "Aktuaalne kaamera."

Previously, e-voting has been open to voters for a period of seven days ending four days ahead of election day. The coalition Center Party, however, wants to shorten that period to just three days in time for this fall’s local elections so that e-voters would not be at an advantage over voters at traditional polling stations.

"For the Center Party, the internet and e-voting remain an unsecure place," Center Party Deputy Chairman Jaanus Karilaid said. "No doubt our ideal wish would have been to lose e-voting altogether, but today this is the compromise, then, that we shorten the number of days for e-voting — that it can only be done on three days. And one idea would be that on election day, Sunday, one could change their vote at the polling station as well."

Ratas: E-voting not going anywhere

Center Party Chairman, Prime Minister Jüri Ratas confirmed, however, that e-voting would not be going anywhere. "The coalition has agreed that e-voting will remain," Ratas said.

The prime minister stressed that the security aspect of e-voting remained of crucial importance in election procedures.

The Center Party was against e-voting as a member of the opposition, stating that they were not secure and demanded that e-voting be abandoned. Karilaid has now once again cited increasing security as a justification for shortening the e-voting period by more than half.

According to the deputy chairman, decreasing the e-voting period from seven days to three would decrease the likelihood of votes being manipulated. "And in all likelihood this could also increase the number of people at polling stations again as well," Karilaid added. "I’m saying that this is just one step forward. I’m saying that we will undoubtedly continue working on increasing the security of e-voting."

SDE, IRL not against shortening e-voting period

Center Party coalition partners Pro Patria and Res Publica Union (IRL) and the Social Democratic Party (SDE) have currently ruled out losing e-voting altogether, however they are in favor of shortening the e-voting period so that the same rules would apply as to early voting.

IRL parliamentary group deputy chairman Siim Kiisler said that getting rid of e-voting would be absurd. "If anyone in the Center Party has such ideas, then IRL is ruling them out unequivocally," he said. "E-voting is here to stay; this is very important for Estonia. Regarding the adjustment of time limits, we agree with that."

Kiisler added that IRL also wants to introduce a change that would allow voters to cast their votes electronically on election day as well.

SDE parliamentary group deputy chairwoman Liisa Oviir said that they are prepared to discuss the Center Party’s proposal. "We are prepared to discuss possibly shortening this period if there are good arguments for it — in order to unify general early voting with the e-voting period, to unify some regulations, avoid certain misuse — I mean primarily various opportunities for agitation and so on," she said.

Editor: Aili Vahtla

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