Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Is Bulgaria ready for an e-voting revolution?

Even though the prospect of electronic voting technology has been proposed and discussed for a number of years in Bulgaria, its acceptance and implementation have not yet been fully realized. Supporters of e-voting technology are quick to point out the strengths of these potential systems, including the improved cost-effectiveness of electronic voting compared to traditional ballot systems, as well as the possibility of improved voter turnout and the faster tabulation of results.

There are challenges to overcome, to be sure, but the first step that the Bulgarian government needs to take is to establish a dedication to the adoption of e-voting technology for the country's elections. Only then can these challenges be addressed by vetting the right technology vendors, erecting the appropriate infrastructure, and setting the checks and balances in place to ensure the sanctity and integrity of the democratic process is upheld.

Earlier this year, it was announced that a referendum would be held in Bulgaria to determine the public opinion on several key matters as related to the mechanisms of voting in the country. At the time, several questions were being posited, including those regarding the possible introduction of compulsory voting and majority voting, but those questions have now been reduced to just one: the issue of e-voting.

The Bulgarian members of parliament have now decided that the only question to appear on the upcoming referendum will be the one regarding whether or not the people of Bulgaria wish to adopt e-voting for future elections. The original referendum would proposed by President Rosen Plevneliev and the decision to only ask about e-voting was favoured by 131 out of 175 members of parliament.

Now, it is up to the people of Bulgaria to decide whether or not they would like to have e-voting as part of their regular democratic process for elections. This referendum question will be asked at the same time as the local elections scheduled to take place on October 25 of this year. E-voting has been discussed for years in Bulgaria and, should the referendum pass, its implementation can finally move on to the next stage.

Bulgaria will hardly be the first country in the world to look into or introduce electronic voting technology into its elections. Because of this, Bulgaria will be able to leverage and learn from the experiences of these other countries. Estonia continues to be a leader with its secure Internet-based voting system. Many countries now offer direct-recording electronic (DRE) voting machines in place of traditional paper ballots. Some use electronic ballot counting machines to replace manual counting.

The possibilities are numerous. In this increasingly digitized and interconnected global community, Bulgaria should be ready to step into the 21st century to join these other countries in the e-voting revolution.