By: Elizabeth Filatova

Voting in the United States is a huge hassle and after every presidential election there is a discussion on all levels of government on the ways in which voting can be improved. Unlike the United States, Estonia introduced online voting in 2005. Estonians are very happy with the convenience of their system of online voting. The percentage of the population who vote online has risen from 2% to 25% from 2005 to 2011. Estonians are issued a government ID which gives them a unique online identity. After each Estonian has voted their votes are encrypted to preserve anonymity. Even though the government guarantees secure transactions, the Estonians’ identity is authenticated by a party impendent of the government. Furthermore, to ensure that voters are not voting under duress the system allows them to override a prior electronic vote by voting again online or at a polling site.

Estonians also use their ID for a variety of purposes like paying online bills or taxes. Inside this ID is a chip that holds information about the card’s owner and two certificates, one of which is used to authenticate identity and the second to render a digital signature. Each person who uses the ID online has a card reader attached to their computer. The ID card is secure because a PIN code is assigned to each chip and it is required every time the card is used. Estonians can also use their cellular phones for identification – which means that they don’t need to get an ID card reader for their computer as the phone acts as both the card and the reader. Over 90% of Estonians have an electronic ID that they use for various ever increasing purposes.

According to the Estonian President, Toomas Hendrik Ilves, this identification system makes Estonia’s economy stronger and helped lessen the effects of the DDoS attacks of 2007. Furthermore, Estonians have legal ownership of their own data and are thus able to access their financial and medical information online. This makes them more comfortable with their ability to maintain privacy.

However, computer scientists are not convinced. They say that a system that that is able to accurately count votes while keeping the information anonymous has not been invented and that anything short of perfection is not acceptable for the purposes of voting. There is no way to tell that existing systems, like the one in Estonia, is secure because discrepancies are so hard to detect.