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Scientists calculate administrative cost to state of electronic votes

Win for the Estonian e-state: an electronic vote only costs between 10 and 50% of a conventional paper vote in terms of administrative effort.
Win for the Estonian e-state: an electronic vote only costs between 10 and 50% of a conventional paper vote in terms of administrative effort. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

TalTech scientists have calculated the administrative cost per electronic vote in Estonia. At €2.32, it is by far the cheapest option, followed by €4.37 per vote cast on election day, €6.24 per early vote in the country's county centres, and a whopping €20.41 per vote cast at a local polling division.

Scientists of the Ragnar Nurkse Department of Innovation at the Tallinn University of Technology (TalTech) used data collected in last year's local elections as the basis for a paper to be published early next month, daily Postimees wrote on Friday.

In Estonia's last local elections in October 2017, a total of 586,519 Estonian residents voted. Of all the votes cast, 120,888 were early votes, 186,034 were electronic, and 279,597 were cast on election day.

Electronic vote cheapest option by far

An electronic vote costs just €2.32. This isn't just the lowest administrative cost per vote in Estonia, but likely also one of the lowest worldwide.

Generally speaking, the administrative cost of any election or referendum increases the farther away from any centre or nationally elected political assembly the voting takes place. In other words, the more local you go, the more your election will cost.

A paper vote on election day in October 2017 on average cost the state €4.37 to arrange. An early vote cast at a county centre, still relatively close to the heart of the state's administration, cost €6.24 on average.

Some votes were cast at relatively remote polling stations, making them the most expensive at €20.41.

Votes cast closer to government centre cost less

The scientists' work goes into more detail yet, for example specifying the cost per single vote not only by the place where it was cast, but also when it was cast. There again, the trend seems to be that the closer to election day and the centre of government a vote is cast, the lower its cost to the state.

This breakdown of the cost of last year's local election seems to confirm the Estonian experience that the digitisation of state functions and services is a good way to cut costs.

According to Postimees, the government is working to further simplify the election procedure, not only trying to encourage more citizens and residents to vote electronically, but also by reducing the amount of red tape in the process of arranging the next elections.

Editor: Dario Cavegn

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