Monday, March 13, 2023

Philippines holds big election powwow


A major election conference in the Philippines aimed at improving the electoral process through technology was recently hosted by the country’s Commission on Elections (Comelec).

The three-day 2023 National Election Summit was attended by a broad spectrum of stakeholders from government, civil society, the academe, and the private sector. It served as platform for consultations and discussions in pursuit of continuing improvement of the country’s elections, which received a major boost when the Automated Election Systems (AES) was first used in 2010.

The convention featured breakout sessions that took a deep dive into blockchain, cybersecurity, digitalization, campaign contributions, inclusivity, and other hot issues surrounding elections.

Discussions on how the automated count has revolutionized elections in the country was the overwhelming tenor of the event, with numerous experts detailing how the AES has led to the declining numbers of electoral protests, a dramatic drop in incidents of electoral violence, and an unprecedented high approval rating for the Comelec.

On the same vein, a prevailing sentiment in the summit was a need for a continuing improvement in transparency, audibility, and security.

The event featured an exhibit where election companies showcased their high-tech elections systems including optical mark readers (OMR), ballot marking devices (BMD), direct recording electronic (DRE) machines, and internet voting solutions.

George Garcia, the Comelec’s chairman, underscored the importance of the summit in building consensus saying that “it’s not everyday stakeholders – whether they attack the Comelec or defend the Comelec – come together.”

“There are many ideas on how to prevent vote-buying, how to improve overseas voting, how to ensure high voter turnout, and what type of election system we should use,” he added. “In a democracy, we listen and we will act accordingly,” he added.

The Election Summit is being viewed by election observers as a strong confirmation that automation had largely benefited Philippine elections and is likely to be continued with some tweaks. A survey conducted shortly after the 2022 general elections revealed that 9 out of 10 Filipino voters want all future elections to be automated.

Tuesday, March 7, 2023

Historic: Estonian online voting system breaches 50% mark in recent Estonia polls


Estonia achieved a new world record last week when 51% of voters chose to participate in the 2023 parliamentary elections via the Internet. Since its introduction in 2005 in the Baltic nation, online voting has been enjoying a steady growth.

This success of internet voting is particularly impressive in light of the major cyber-attack in 2007 that disrupted Estonia’s government services and raised concerns about the security of its digital infrastructure. Despite the harrowing episode, Estonians have taken to the idea of digital democracy, a testament to how thoroughly the Estonian government had implemented its recovery measures, including its cyber deterrence strategies.

The increasing sophistication of the technology itself is also driving adoption. Online voting systems are now even more secure, transparent, and inclusive than ever before. They use advanced encryption and other security measures to make the system more impregnable against hacking and other cyber-attacks. The technology is designed to ensure voter anonymity and to be tamper-proof.

As the technology matures, more people are realizing the immense benefits of the internet as voting modality -- flexible, accessible, inclusive, user-friendly. Anywhere there is an internet connection, citizens can vote using a device of their choice. While online voting used to only appeal to tech-savvy young people, it now is increasingly within the reach of voters of all ages and backgrounds.

The COVID-19 pandemic proved to be another accelerant to i-Voting adoption. Online voting offers a safe and convenient alternative to in-person voting, a fact that has made it more attractive to citizens who may be hesitant to participate in traditional voting systems during a widespread health crisis.

The 2023 Estonia experience is a strong tell for the readiness of voters to embrace even more modern voting modalities such as the internet. Despite important questions around security and accessibility that need to be addressed, election commissions around the world would do well to take a page from the success of Estonia and start exploring how online voting technology could help them conduct better elections.