June 19, 2012, 8:39 a.m.
As the world becomes increasingly reliant on the Internet for essential activities like banking, taxes and obtaining information from the government, interest in online voting is growing. Norway was one of the first countries to implement online voting with a pilot program during the September 2011 local government elections. As this method of casting ballots is relatively new and unexplored, many looked to Norway’s experience to better understand the benefits and consequences of such a system. To assess and draw valuable lessons that can be applied across the globe, IFES produced three reports evaluating specific aspects of this voting pilot program at the request of the Norwegian Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development. These reports were released to the public by the Norwegian government on June 12. IFES examined international experiences with Internet and electronic voting; speed and efficiency of vote counting process; and adherence of the Norwegian Internet voting system to international norms. These topic areas were three of the seven the Norwegian government asked experts to analyze. IFES’ F. Clifton White Applied Research Center led a team of international experts in their review. "IFES is pleased to have had an opportunity to evaluate these historic elections in Norway," said IFES Lead Researcher Ben Goldsmith, who also serves as IFES chief of party in Kosovo. "The use of Internet voting is a growing phenomenon and Norway's experience highlights the many positives that Internet voting can provide, including greater access to the election process for voters. "As voting by Internet grows to other countries in the coming years, IFES will continue to use its expertise and experience to provide support to countries making this transition, and the Norway experience will provide valuable insights into our efforts." The report International Experience with E-Voting catalogues global experiences with Internet and electronic voting. The analysis reviews countries that have used Internet voting and summarizes their experiences. Thematic issues and challenges related to Internet voting are also highlighted. Among these challenges are trust in Internet voting; secrecy and freedom of the vote; accessibility of Internet voting; and the role of stakeholders. Additionally, the report takes a deeper look at countries where Internet voting has been used for multiple elections – Estonia, France and Switzerland-Geneva. Speed and Efficiency of the Vote Counting Process assesses the impact Internet voting had on the results compilation process. While no conclusion is drawn on what impact Internet voting had on the speed of the counting process, the overall time taken to declare results was very similar for pilot and control municipalities. Both sets of municipalities experienced very similar reductions in the time taken to declare results between the 2007 and 2011 elections. Compliance with International Standards evaluates the compliance of the Norwegian Internet voting system with the Council of Europe’s Recommendations, as well as other international electoral standards relating to electronic voting. This report found that of the 112 Council of Europe Recommendations, the Norwegian Internet voting system was found to be fully compliant with 85 of them. Norway’s e-vote project provided substantial data, as the program was widely used, with over 25 percent of voters in the pilot municipalities casting their ballot over the Internet. Insights gathered from this experience will no doubt shed light on Internet voting for years to come.