CSOs concerned over plans to pilot internet voting during Local elections
On July 1, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) and 37 Ukrainian civil society organizations released a joint statement raising concerns about plans to pilot internet voting during the local elections. The full statement is below.
The signatories of this statement would like to express their serious concern regarding plans to pilot internet voting during October local self-government elections.
We believe that at present it is too early to conduct a pilot test and that piloting this technology without sufficient preparation could cause harm to the integrity and perceived success of the election process. We believe that the Ministry of Digital Transformation of Ukraine should not continue the experiment until a full cycle of consultations is conducted with all relevant stakeholders, namely civil society, election management and international experts on the responsible path forward towards digitizing elections in Ukraine.
We also urge the Government of Ukraine to ensure a leading role of the Central Election Commission in discussing implementation of modern IT solutions into the electoral process. The Parliament has also to be provided with timely and comprehensive updates on any plans related to digitizing elections. According to extensive research on Ukraine and international experiences with internet voting, we believe this pilot is premature for the following reasons:
Ukraine does not have the necessary technology infrastructure to adequately pilot internet voting;
There is a high risk of technological failures and cyberattacks, particularly in light of the ongoing military conflict, recent leaks of personal information of citizens from state registries, and a history of sophisticated cyberattacks in Ukraine;
The successful introduction of internet voting requires an e-government system that has already won the trust of the public, as well as full technological coverage and appropriate infrastructure throughout the country. Ukraine does not yet have this trust, nor does it have a sufficiently digitized identification system;
There is significant distrust of internet voting by voters and politicians. This distrust may threaten citizens’ ability to accept results through this system, particularly if those who lose an election accuse the system of fraud or manipulation;
If there are differences in election results for those using the online system versus those voting in person in polling stations, running this pilot prematurely and parallel to the polling in local elections could cause disputes about election outcomes. Best practice dictates that pilots take place first outside of a live election event to make sure there is no confusion. The first test should not be conducted during the local elections;
If the pilot fails, this may have negative consequences for all technology initiatives in e-democracy in Ukraine, in which citizens may lose confidence.
We believe that, for the time being, the risks of introducing such technologies far outweigh the possible advantages. Public confidence in the legality and transparency of the electoral process is a priority.
In our opinion, any experiment has to have a clear purpose, be aimed at solving a problem that society is really worried about, and additionally offer an evaluation scale to assess its efficiency.
We want Ukraine to be able to maintain a high standard in its electoral processes, in line with international and European standards. Given the critical importance of all the above, we appeal to the Ministry of the Digital Transformation to postpone the announced pilot and hold additional public, transparent and inclusive consultations between all stakeholders involved in the electoral process in Ukraine before proceeding further with internet voting in Ukraine.
International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) in Ukraine;
Khorol public organization of persons with disabilities;
Civil movement “Chesno”;
NGO “Civil Holding “Group of Influence”;
Centre of Policy and Legal Reform;
Civil Network OPORA;
NGO “Young Cherkashchyna”;
All-Ukrainian information and analytical publication for local governments “Local Government”;
NGO Donetsk Institute for Social Research and Political Analysis;
Cherkasy Community Foundation;
NGO “Poltava City Association of Persons with Disabilities “Vira”;
NGO “Access Point”;
All-Ukrainian publication on civil service and service in local self-government bodies “State Servant”;
Kirovohrad Association “Public Initiatives”;
NGO “Human Rights Platform”;
Ukrainian Center for Social Data;
Charitable organization “Kherson Community Foundation “Zahyst”;
Vinnytsia Press Club;
Public organization “Our Podillya”;
NGO “Integrity UA”;
NGO “Institute of Civic Action, Education and Development”;
Ukrainian Center for Independent Political Research;
Volunteer Movement “Space of Freedom”;
Kherson regional organization of the Committee of Voters of Ukraine;
NGO “Committee of voters of Ukraine”;
The Women's Consortium of Ukraine;
NGO Institute “Respublika”;
Odessa Regional Organization of All-Ukrainian NGO Committee of Voters of Ukraine;
NGO “Fight for rights”;
NGO Kolping Ukraine;
Bakhmut City Association of Persons with Disabilities "Nadiya";
Educational Center for Human Rights in Lviv;
Center for Societal Innovations;
Center for Political Analysis and Election Consulting;