Estonia's much-talked-about e-innovation fell under doubt by its advocates last night, when, after preliminary results came in at 20:00, a website breakdown impeded election results from arriving for more than 1.5 hours in the most critical time.
An unprecedented software error with the web system was a blow to the trustworthyness of the elections, said National Electoral Committee Chairman Heiki Sibul. "That fact that we have a problem with something as simple as displaying the website - that is not acceptable," said Sibul on ETV, asserting nevertheless that there is no reason to doubt the results.
The website was running again by 23:05, but the incident was made more troubling by the memory of a a similar flop in the European Parliament elections in 2009. This time, failsafe plans did not work and the committee was forced to manually update results by Twitter and Facebook as votes continued to be counted.
Sibul's goal was to foster trust for the still frontiering internet voting, and getting the results to the people quickly. "If we can't do that, then there are no excuses," he said.
Further hinting to the technology's imperfections, another type of error, a browser malfunction, emerged while e-voting was still in progress, due to which voters in three known instances could not view several listed candidates. The voters were, nevertheless, able to cast their votes.
Beside purely technical challenges, the election chief, Sibul, commended the referendum, which he said passed smoothly in the real booths on Election Day. He also lauded what he believed was a substantive campaign season. Helmes, the software company contracted by the government for e-voting, is now investigating the technical mishaps.