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Supreme Court rejects EKRE's appeal of e-vote in upcoming elections

E-voting in Estonia.
E-voting in Estonia. Source: ERR

The Supreme Court of Estonia rejected the appeal of the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) of the National Electoral Committee's Sept. 6 decision not to ban electronic voting at the local government council elections taking place next month.

The Supreme Court explained that, according to the Local Government Council Election Act, the National Electoral Committee has the right not to start electronic voting if the security or reliability of the electronic voting system cannot be ensured in such way that electronic voting could be conducted pursuant to the requirements of the act.

The National Electoral Committee is not, however, required to cancel e-voting if it receives information indicating the possibility of adverse consequences.

"The National Electoral Committee must employ this measure if the exploitation of a risk and the resulting adverse consequences are sufficiently likely in the opinion of the committee as based on known specific circumstances at the time the decision is made," the country's top court explained. "In doing so, the National Electoral Committee must also assess whether any potential e-voting violations resulting from the exploitation of the security risk may affect the election results to a significant extent."

The Supreme Court found no reason to doubt the adequacy of the information collected by the electoral committee or the assessment of the security of Estonia's e-voting system.

"Based on current information, the expense in time and other resources needed to actually realize this security threat is great enough that even if the security threat were realized, its exploitation to such an extent that could affect election results is unlikely," the Supreme Court noted.

According to the top court, should new circumstances arise, the National Electoral Committee is required to re-evaluate the feasibility of securely conducting electronic voting as well as reconsider canceling electronic voting.

The Supreme Court explained that should the electoral committee determine during the course of electronic voting that the exploitation of a security risk may affect election results to a significant extent, e-voting must be suspended or terminated. If a security risk is determined to have been exploited to the extent that the committee believes it affected or could affect election results to a significant extent, the National Electoral Committee must declare the results of the e-vote invalid either in full or in part and hold a repeat vote.

Risk not great enough threat to e-vote

On Sept. 6, the National Electoral Committee, which convened following reports in early September of a potential security risk that could affect 750,000 national ID cards in Estonia, decided that the risk was not great enough to warrant denying voters the opportunity to vote electronically in the upcoming local elections.

Early and online voting in this fall's local government council elections will begin on Oct. 5; Election Day is on Oct. 15.

Editor: Aili Vahtla

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