Opinion | E-voting in Bulgaria: a Leap in the Dark or a Good Plan?
We live in a democracy. The concept of democracy entails political freedom, freedom of speech, and legal equality. However, the most distinctive feature is the right to vote. Exercising this privilege, people can influence a variety of pressing issues, given that they accept its power and responsibility. Provided this background, major changes can be initiated. And nowadays in Bulgaria a new way of voting gains popularity – e-voting, whose probable adoption will be determined through a referendum on Oct.25.
There are two ways citizens can cast their vote, either through traditional or through electronic voting. Traditional voting requires the person going to a polling station where he uses a paper bulletin to cast his vote. Through e-voting, an individual can cast his or her vote remotely from a personal computer.
In Bulgaria’s case, people are only familiar with the first type of voting – through paper bulletins. E-voting is a pioneer notion which Bulgarians will decide whether to embrace on a referendum. The latter will take place on Oct. 25. The significance of the event consists of that it will be for the Bulgarian people, as the sovereign, to decide on that vital topic. However, this idea has many opponents.
From one point, helping the Bulgarian citizens outside the country to cast their vote is the aim of e-voting. Due to inflexible work hours and long distances to the polling stations, many are unable to exercise their right on the elections day. Through e-voting the people will not have to go to the polls and, thus, they will be facilitated to vote. Opponents of the idea would argue that there is no need for those people to vote since they fled the country in the first place. To debunk this opinion, one should consider that the citizens working abroad invest a considerable amount of money in their home country and this act alone should be enough to grant them the privilege.
Another argument in favor of e-voting is that disabled and elderly people would find it more convenient to vote. They
won‘t have to worry about going to the polling stations or someone else visiting them in their homes on elections day. Furthermore, this will evoke a feeling of equality so that they don’t feel any different.
Despite the positive improvements which e-voting will bring about, many people are still against the idea. The two most common views against e-voting are that Bulgaria doesn’t have and cannot afford the costly technical infrastructure, and that this type of voting cannot guarantee the secrecy of the vote. Some fear that the computer systems can be easily hacked which will reveal the voter’s preference. This arises suspicion in the citizens, those who are not acquainted with the contemporary information systems, in particular.
E-voting is likely to decrease the chance of human errors and will neutralize the influence of the vote buying business, proven to be so notorious in Bulgaria. E-voting will increase the electoral activity and will provide an opportunity for greater civil participation in the country’s affairs.
In Estonia, e-voting contributed to the widespread usage of internet and computer literacy given that this method makes voting easier and cheaper. The development of the digital system for digital ID and the encryption of the vote eliminated the aspects concerning security. The people became more politically supportive as e-voting doesn’t eradicate the traditional way of voting but rather co-exists with it and improves it.
As far as Bulgaria is concerned, there is a need for a big initial investment so that the technology and qualified personnel could be set up – an investment which Bulgaria cannot make, for the time being. In addition, many are unwilling to make such an investment because of the unforeseeable changes that will occur. As for the second setback, there are ways that the secrecy of the vote is ensure – the case of Estonia serves as an example.
Bulgarians are ready to embrace this change given that they tend to engage new technologies. In the 2011 census, over 40% of the citizens took part online. This depicts that the people are on the verge of taking the “leap” and starting to make a difference. Nowadays, Bulgaria cannot unfold its potential because of many unresolved problems. So, whether with a paper bulletin or personal computer, it’s crucial that the people are awake and do something together. Only then, they can hope that the situation will change.