Riigikogu rejects extending advance e-voting period, joint tax returns

MP seats in the Session Hall of the Riigikogu.
MP seats in the Session Hall of the Riigikogu. Source: (Rene Suurkaev/ERR)

The Riigikogu on Tuesday did not support a bill which sought to extend the period for advance e-voting from seven to ten days as well as rejected a bill amending the Income Tax Act to restore the option for spouses to declare their income in a joint tax return.

The Constitutional Committee of the Riigikogu proposed rejecting the opposition Reform Party's bill on the extension of the advance e-voting period at the first reading, with 47 MPs in favor and 31 MPs against the proposal. Thus the bill is no longer being handled, Riigikogu spokespeople said.

According to the bill, the advance e-voting period would have been extended from seven to ten days, which would have meant that e-voting would have taken place from the 13th day to the fourth day preceding election day.

According to MP Helmut Hallemaa (Center), a member of the Constitutional Committee, the committee supported rejecting the bill 5-4. He added that the primary issues regarding the matter to be discussed in the committee were the security of elections and the conformation of the election period.

MP Hanno Pevkur, representing the party to initiate the bill, said that the coalition in the Riigikogu had proposed shortening the timeframe for e-voting. "We can in no way agree with the idea that the period for e-voting could be shortened," he said. "It is not a question of how long the time for e-voting is, but that the message of the bill is that desire to tarnish Estonia's image of e-success."

Pevkur said that with the bill, the ruling coalition is signaling that e-voting is not trusted and that talk of uniformity is not sufficient. "If the wish is to make voting more uniform, it would also be posible to back the Reform Party's bill, extend the e-voting period and this will allow for the harmonization of the time periods for e-voting and advance voting," he commented.

Center Party MP Mihhail Stalnuhhin said that in order to achieve the safety of e-voting, it is necessary to conduct further tests and ensure that e-voting is secret. Free Party MP Jüri Adams said that the party's parliamentary group is in support of extending the e-voting period.

Reform Party MP Jürgen Ligi said that the ID card is the key question in why e-voting does not work in many countries. He noted that participation of younger people in voting would decrease significantly if they had no opportunity to cast their ballots electronically. Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) MP Henn Põlluaas said that it was not currently possible to ensure the safety of e-voting, adding that evidence and audits were necessary to ensure safety.

Free Party MP: Taking away joint return option damages the status of marriage

The Finance Committee of the Riigikogu proposed rejecting the bill of amendments to the Income Tax Act which wold have restored joint tax returns for married couples, with 43 MPs in favor and 30 MPs against rejecting it.

Had the Reform-backed bill become law, the income and deductions from income of both spouses would have been added together. According to the initiators of the bill, a joint declaration is based on the Family Law Act in force as well as the logic of joint property of spouses. Marriage generally means an agreement regarding joint property and responsibilities, including the right to a joint declaration, they found.

Ligi (Reform) said at the negotiations that it was scandalous that the coalition went after the joint declaration as it emphasizes important family values.

Free Party MP Andres Ammas said that the party's parliamentary group was in favor of the bill, adding that taking away the option for joint tax returns was not thought through and damaged the status of marriage.

Editor: Aili Vahtla

Source: BNS

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