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Sunday, July 14, 2024

Philippines looks up to Estonia’s best practices as first foray into online voting for OFWs set in 2025

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The Philippines is eyeing to duplicate the success of online voting in the European country of Estonia in line with the goal of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to make it easier for Filipinos living and working abroad to cast their votes in next year’s midterm election.

In a recent forum held at the Rappler office in Pasig where Comelec demonstrated the automated counting machines (ACMs), Chairman George Erwin Garcia of the Comelec assured the public that online voting will be introduced in 2025, a move that is set to revolutionize the voting process for millions of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

Garcia said the initiative aims to make voting more accessible and convenient for Filipinos living abroad, significantly pushing forward the country’s democratic process. He noted that if successful, the Comelec could extend online voting to senior citizens, persons with disabilities, and pregnant women in the Philippines, thereby increasing democratic participation.

To leave no stone unturned in ensuring the success of the new voting method, Garcia announced that Comelec officials were sent to Estonia to benchmark the Baltic country’s trailblazing online voting system.

“Just today, a commissioner and the head of the Information Technology Department left for Estonia, the first country in the world to implement voting. We want to learn how they secured and protected the votes of their citizens using internet voting. Of course, it’s best to get ideas from other countries that have already successfully used the technology,” Garcia said.

Estonia has been offering internet voting to all its citizens since 2005, with 41% opting for this method in the recent European Parliament elections. The Estonian model features a seven-day online voting period while maintaining the option for in-person voting, ensuring flexibility and convenience.

The system, designed from the ground up to complement traditional voting, discourages coercion and vote-buying by allowing multiple online votes, with only the final vote counting. This ingenious feature, along with the rule that in-person votes overrule electronic ones, allows for greater election integrity.

Estonia’s system, initially developed by Estonian tech company Cybernetica and upgraded in 2014 with the help of international election company Smartmatic, has been providing a secure and effective online voting system to other countries like Norway, Germany, Canada, and Chile.

The introduction of the Automated Election System in 2010 has resulted in dramatic improvements in speed, accuracy, and security in the country’s electoral process. Observers see online voting as the next level in this evolution, promising to give a voice to the sizable Filipino diaspora, whose economic contributions hit a record high of US$36.14 billion in 2022.

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