A number of countries, including the USA, UK, Japan and Russia, are considering the potential of introducing an online voting option for elections. Should they do so, they would follow in the footsteps of countries such as Australia, Estonia and Switzerland who all use remote online voting to varying degrees.
The US State of West Virginia will pilot remote online voting for military personnel serving overseas in the 2018 midterm elections. The blockchain-based platform will require voters to submit a photo of their government-issued ID as well a ‘selfie video’. Facial recognition technology will then be used to verify the identity of the voter. A pilot was previously undertaken for the primary elections in May.
West Virginia’s Secretary of State, Mac Warner, himself a former US Army Colonel, said:
“Think of a soldier on a hillside in Afghanistan or a sailor under the polar ice caps. They don’t have access to U.S. mail. Sometimes they’re in a classified area such as a nuclear sub or simply don’t have access to scanners, fax machines and that sort of thing. They do have access to the internet, mobile devices. It’s a tremendous solution to a very difficult problem and with West Virginia having the highest per capita volunteers in the U.S. military, we owe it to them.”
Piloting online voting for military personnel overseas is something WebRoots Democracy has advocated for in the past.
In Japan, a government panel has proposed allowing Japanese expatriates to vote online in future elections. A report by the Internal Affairs Ministry said the ‘My Number ID’ cards could be used to overcome concerns about identity verification. The earliest date they are looking at is 2020. Of the 100,000 registered Japanese voters abroad, only 20% vote in elections.
Meanwhile, Russia’s Central Elections Commission has hinted that the country may introduce online voting for the 2021 Parliamentary elections. Speaking to reporters, Vasily Likhachev, a member of the Commission said:
“Considering the scale of the Russian Federation’s territory we have to start using internet voting. I think that we will possibly do something already in the next federal elections campaign – the 2021 State Duma elections.”
He stated that countries such as Estonia and Switzerland have shown that it can be done. Like Japan, he also pointed to the need for expatriate Russian voters:
“Currently there are 4 million people registered as potential voters in Russian consular offices in foreign nations. We consider it important to give these voters proper legal condition for voting.”
Here, in the UK, both the Scottish Government and Welsh Government have committed to piloting the technology in future elections as we have extensively reported in the past.