Electronic voting in Finland
The electronic voting experiment
The project to introduce electronic voting was started in 2005. Before the project was started the Ministry of Justice outlined the broad guidelines for electronic voting in three memorandums.
- Memorandum of 12 January 2004: Development of the Election Information System /II (in Finnish)
- Memorandum of 19 May 2003: Development of the Election Information System (in Finnish)
- Memorandum of 24 March 2000: Technical development of the Election Information System (in Finnish)
A Government proposal on the amendment of the Election Act was submitted to the Parliament on 10 March 2006.
In the 2008 municipal elections, the Ministry of Justice arranged for the first time electronic elections in three municipalities: Karkkila, Kauniainen and Vihti. In these municipalities, voters were able to vote electronically at polling stations either on election day or in advance. Electronic voting, both in advance and on election day, took place in front of election authorities at the polling stations. Traditional ballot voting was also allowed. Distance voting via the Internet was not possible.
The provisions on electronic voting were included in the Act amending the Election Act (880/2006), which was in force until the end of 2008.
The Ministry of Justice drew up a memorandum on the E-voting experiment (30 September 2009, in Finnish). The Ministry received 30 statements on the memorandum (summary of the statements, in Finnish), and a citizen consultation was conducted on the otakantaa.fi platform (summary of the consultation, in Finnish).
The Cabinet decided in the cabinet evening session of 13 January 2010 that the development of electronic voting at polling stations will not be continued for the meantime, but instead the current election system will be maintained. At the same time, close attention will be paid to the development of electronic voting in international arenas.
Demonstration of electronic voting
The polling booth and voting terminal for electronic voting
Feasibility study on internet voting
In its strategy session on 24 October 2016, the Government outlined that preparations to introduce electronic voting as an alternative to the traditional voting in all elections will be started. The Ministry of Justice appointed a working group to conduct a feasibility study on the possibilities to introduce online voting in Finland. A parliamentary monitoring group was also established.
According to the working group, which published its final report on 19.12.2017, an online voting system is technically feasible, but technology is not yet at a sufficiently high level to meet all the requirements. There are problems for example in the reconciliation of verifiability and election secrecy.
In public discussion, online voting has been presented as a key to increasing voter turnout. The working group estimates, however, that the effect would be rather insignificant. Experiences and studies from countries using online voting show that enabling online voting would probably not increase voting turnout in any significant manner.
The purpose of the feasibility study was to produce information that can be used as a basis for decision-making and to define the premises for the possible acquisition of a data system.
The working group states that international experiences and best practices relating to the digitalisation of elections should be closely monitored also in future. Cooperation between the Nordic election organisations should be developed, as the reliability of elections is a top priority in all Nordic countries.
The working group draws attention to the fact that the development and digitalisation of elections and participation includes much more than just online voting. Digitalisation may help reform the methods of participation and devise them so that they are as easy to use as possible for citizens with different backgrounds.
Participation could be enhanced for example by creating new electronic tools for the use of local authorities. Different participation tools make the decision-making processes more visible to the citizens and provide opportunities for discussion.