Digital vote moves ahead despite criticism

Experts warn that digitalising elections will be more expensive and less secure than traditional voting methods

The government is standing firm on its proposal to digitalise the election process by as early as 2014 despite warnings from experts and others involved in the project. 

“E-voting is still a good idea. The law proposal that was sent to deliberation [received a] vast number of positive responses, particularly from handicap organisations who believe that a digital voting process will improve their members’ opportunities to cast a vote,” Marlene Borst Hansen, a Radikale spokesperson, told Altinget online political news source.

The government's plan aims to make it easier for the handicapped to vote, increase the precision of the counting system and reduce the number of invalid votes.

However, critics – including researchers at the IT University of Copenhagen, the IT union PROSA and the IT association IT-Politisk Forening – are worried that the security and transparency of future elections could be compromised in the move to go digital.

“Today, Danes have a lot of faith in the voting process and that’s partially due to the fact that it is uncomplicated and easy to control,” Carsten Schürmann, a lecturer and the head of the IT University’s research project, DemTech, told “Neither the government's proposal nor the comments to it convey how they intend to secure this trust.”

IT-Politisk Forening was even more pronounced in its criticism, arguing that an e-voting system should be abandoned altogether.

“IT-Politisk Forening recommends that parliament scrap this proposal. We believe that the advantages of an e-voting system are minimal while the risks are numerous,” IT-Politisk Forening wrote in its response to the proposal. “This proposal could gamble with our long-term democratic traditions and reduce the public’s faith in the election process.”

The only official government response to the criticism thus far has been to address the finanical aspects of e-voting. The government has acknowledged that, along with the costs of establishing the digital system, there will also be ongoing costs associated with it. But there has been no response to the recommendations of the many interest groups and specialists that were consulted by the Interior Ministry, which is responsible for organising elections.

E-voting has met with complications in Germany and the Netherlands, the IT University pointed out. A constitutional court in Germany ruled in 2009 that digital voting was unconstitutional, since not everyone possessed the skills necessary to utilise the computer technology used for voting.

The Dutch parliament voted to return to a traditional pencil and paper voting system in 2008 following intense public outcry. The politicians decided that they could not secure voter secrecy because voting control had been delegated to private firms to such a degree that there was no public control.

Some critics contend that bringing e-elections to Denmark could potentially become a new fiasco on par with the oft-delayed and criticised ‘Rejsekort’ system if the technological specifications of the system have not been properly developed by the time is launched. Hansen, however, refuted the charges.

“We are not talking about a pilot project here," Hansen told "Other countries already have electronic elections so the technology does exist. I trust the ministry.”

The electronic voting system was supposed to be implemented in the council and regional elections to be held this autumn, but now it is expected that the new system won’t be tried until the European Parliament elections next year.

The law proposal was discussed at a first reading last week and parliament’s council committee will hold a hearing about the issue on Wednesday, February 13.