“People should have a choice to vote traditionally or online”

Residents of Tatarstan can have a chance to vote online from next year — everything depends on the success of the Central Election Commission’s experiment

“People should have a choice to vote traditionally or online”
Photo: Maksim Platonov

Online elections become a more realistic opportunity for Russians. During an online conference of Realnoe Vremya on 19 August, Midkhat Shagiakhmetov talked about the experiment in Moscow where on the election day — on 8 September — elections in three districts will be online. Voters won’t have to go to the polling station to vote for a candidate — it’s enough to do it via the portal of state services. Moreover, if the novelty is recognised successful, the CEC will spread this practice, and residents of Tatarstan will get this chance from next year.

To choose president at home

Chairman of the Central Election Commission in Tatarstan Midkhat Shagiakhmetov was a guest in Realnoe Vremya’s studio on 16 August. During the discussion of elections to the State Council of Tatarstan, he said that online voting for the republic wasn’t far. Digitalisation affected the process of election as well. Several new technologies will start to be used in this election campaign in the country. Tens of digital polling stations will open as an experiment in Moscow on the election day — 8 September. Here residents of 16 regions where regional leaders are chosen and four regions where additional elections of deputies to the State Duma will take place will be able to vote online.

“Residents of these regions will have an opportunity to go to digital polling stations (30) and vote for their candidates in their regional elections if they are in Moscow. The mechanism of Mobile Voter must be used for this purpose. Consequently, residents of these regions also file in an application, they are attached to one of these 30 digital polling stations, they take the passport and go to vote on the election day,” Midkhat Shagiakhmetov told Realnoe Vremya.

According to the chairman of the republican CEC, it is supposed to open 5,000 digital stations of this kind in the next election campaign in 2020-2021 across the country in general: “And we suppose to open 100 polling stations of this kind in the republic. The task is to provide any voter with a chance to vote in regional elections for a candidate of their legislature or their governor whether it is regional or federal elections”.

But the election campaign doesn’t limit to this novelty. An experiment on online voting will take place in Moscow in three districts.

“So a voter will be able to vote for a candidate via the portal of state services without going to the polling station. This is why these experiments will be tested in Moscow on 8 September, positive and negative moments will be detected. The negative moments will be eliminated, and the procedure itself will improve. If the CEC recognises this experiment effective and risks of double voting or meddling, interference are excluded completely, we hope this experiment will be carried out in other regions. And residents of our republic will also get such an opportunity to vote via the portal of state services in 2020-2021. If all risks I named are excluded,” Shagiakhmetov stressed.

Elections of local governors in 17 regions, including in Tatarstan, will take place in Russia in 2020. Elections to the State Duma will be in 2021. So residents of the republic will be able to use this chance to vote online quite soon.

Online voting can increase turnout

Political expert Abbas Gallyamov supposes that online voting can really increase the percentage of voters in elections:

“The whole world is now experimenting with online voting. It can really increase turnout and attract a bigger amount of people to politics. Nevertheless, for instance, in Germany and the Netherlands, authorities temporarily stopped development in this direction because they suppose that the problem of possible falsifications in case of transition to online voting hasn’t been solved. Russia has Golos association ensuring transparency of elections. If its specialists come to an agreement that the system offered by the authorities guarantees fairness and transparency, I will agree with them. At the moment, as far as I am concerned, Voice isn’t satisfied with results of preliminary testing,” Gallyamov stressed.

Political expert, head of Political Expert Group Konstantin Kalachev welcomed the idea of online voting when people get a chance to vote at home but wonders if there isn’t a problem of voting secrecy in this case, “for instance when a relative or acquaintance votes for a specific voter”. If a person supposes that online voting can allow somebody to find out who he voted for, Kalachev wonders if this can be called freedom of choice.

“There is sense in improving this system in test mode,” Konstantin Kalachev notes. “It can be widely spread only when answers to all the questions of those who doubt that this system can provide adequacy, reliability and transparency, a voter’s freedom of choice are found.”

Kalachev stresses that online elections really give additional motivation to those who don’t feel like going to the polling station because almost everyone has a computer. However, people must be sure the system is perfect. If there are problems, if people don’t believe that their vote is considered, online voting can’t be launched everywhere.

“Experiments are needed, progress does not stand still, but we should treat them carefully, prudently, considering the pros and cons. People should have a choice to vote traditionally or online,” the expert concluded.

By Yekaterina Ablayeva, Vasilya Shirshova