Lithuania open to online voting


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Lithuanians could use online voting similar to the one used in Estonia. Photo: http://www.2mas2.uy

It’s hard to resist change when there are neighbors out there who are determined to have the best electoral technology for safeguarding the people’s intent. This is what Lithuania is experiencing right now. The country is evaluating the possibility of going to online voting, somehow emulating the model used by other European nations such as Estonia.

Minister of Justice Juozas Bernatonis, and the Minister of Transport and Communication, Rimantas Sinkevičius, announced that they have proposed various legal amendments, seeking to implement one of the most advanced types of e-voting: online voting.

The initiative follows a public survey which revealed that 65% of the population approves of this voting mechanism. According to the information disclosed so far, aside from revising the laws in order to authorize electoral automation, Lithuania is also studying the Estonian electoral model toward its implementation.

Estonia recently gave the world a lesson on online voting, as on March 1st, during its parliamentary elections, it got 30% of its electorate (176,328 voters) to vote online. This country has the world’s most sophisticated online voting system, going as far as to allow voter authentication through cell phone, as well as the addition of a digital signature to each vote.

The National Electoral Commission of Estonia has stated that the success of remote voting in the country is due to the fact that its use is optional and it is done before the actual electoral event. Moreover, the system has several features that add value, such as allowing voters to send as many e-votes as they wish, of which however only the last one counts.

Traditional voting for the entire electorate and postal voting for citizens living abroad are still available for those who prefer such choices. It is even possible for those who have previously voted online to attend a polling center on Election Day and vote manually, overriding any e-vote previously cast online.

Lithuania has begun the path toward a difficult yet attainable goal: to allow its citizens to replicate the best practices in e-voting, which are also successfully being implemented by other European nations such as Switzerland—a pioneer in online voting—or like the US and Canada.

Spain turns its back on equal suffrage


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Venezuela uses devices from the SAES 4000 series by Smartmatic, which enable voting for people with disability.

The progress of technology, aside from facilitating and improving processes in numerous realms of human endeavor, is also useful to expose governmental negligence. Next May, Spain will hold municipal and autonomous elections. Although the nation has been running tests and analyses for years in order to take steps into e-voting, in recent weeks authorities have acknowledged that people will disabilities will not be able to exert their right to suffrage in the upcoming elections.

The Executive Branch has pointed out that it is “technically impossible” to use a voting system accessible to people with visual impairments, due to the large number of candidacies in the 8,116 municipalities that will go to the polls this time. The government has even mentioned that the Organic Law of the General Electoral Regime (LOREG) contemplates just one specific voting procedure for the visually impaired (ballots in Braille), but only for general elections, European elections, and referenda; thus leaving out municipal elections, and altogether excluding voters with disabilities other than visual impairment.

This recent official statement is at odds with the fundamental rights of members of any society; worse yet, knowing that in other parts of the world technology has contributed to balance the exercise of suffrage. Physical or sensory disabilities no longer pose a restriction for voters to cast their ballots and benefit from the right to vote in an universal, free, direct, secret, and equal manner. Aside from representing the best option for citizens to gain access to fast, reliable, and transparent elections, e-voting has bestowed a new meaning to equal suffrage. It has offered autonomy to voters with physical disabilities (motor disabilities, limb impairment, absence of limbs), as well as sensory ones (visual and hearing impairment).

For example, the US and Venezuela employ vastly different voting models, but they both have implemented equipment supporting the Braille system for visually impaired voters and providing headphones for illiterate voters, as well as “sip and puff” tools to facilititate suffrage for people with motor problems.

In Spain, e-voting has had numerous trials. The first one took place in 1995 and the latest one in 2011 in Castellón, Ceuta, Huesca, and Merida. However, no autonomous community has been able to take the initiative and regulate automation.

Spanish deputy Joan Valdoví considers that the Spanish Government “is still living in the 19th century” and has been incapable of “adapting to new technologies to make democracy truly accessible to all citizens.”

Electoral technology has made the assisted vote possible thanks to a new generation of cutting-edge machines; e.g., touchscreen devices with Braille system for people with visual disability to vote on their own, or devices with headphones where the machine reads the contents of the ballot in as many languages as required. Moreover, there are interfaces that enable ballot navigation using “sip and puff” devices, so that voters with motor limitations can browse through options in the ballot.

There are no excuses for discrimination. What Spain and other nations require is the resolve and a sense of equality in the exercise of suffrage, as technology is available to guarantee every citizen’s right to vote. It is time to acknowledge that people with any kind of physical impairments have the same rights to vote as anyone else.