How do young people from Cluj respond to the question: "Should electronic voting be introduced in Romania?"
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According to hotnews.ro, the debate was supported by students of Babeș-Bolyai University and a lawyer, associate professor of the Faculty of Law. Here are the arguments for and against the introduction of electronic voting.
The scenario with Romanians from abroad who were sitting in huge queues and waiting all day to vote, many without reaching the polls, was repeated at this year's European Parliamentary elections. Because the presidential elections are coming, even the PSD and other parties have tried to clean up their image, so almost all the parliamentarians voted a series of changes to the electoral law, meant to facilitate the vote outside the country.
Correspondence vote was also introduced at the presidential elections along with the possibility to vote for three days, from Friday to Sunday, for citizens outside the borders. The time was extended until 23:59, if the closing of the section gets you in line, which is valid for Romanians voting in the country.
Theoretically these measures should solve the problem with the diaspora vote, but the electronic vote remained on the wallpaper. The hope is that he will encourage all Romanians to vote in greater numbers. A month ago, the Senate tacitly adopted a draft law on electronic voting at a distance, both for Romanians in the country and abroad, although a similar proposal was rejected in the spring.
But the final decision on the law is in the Chamber of Deputies and it remains to be seen what this will decide considering that each party has its own ideas regarding the implementation of the electronic vote.
George Jiglău, a university lecturer at the Faculty of Political Science of Babeș-Bolyai University and a member of the Center for the Study of Democracy, spoke little about the online vote and the context in which the discussion should take place.
He pointed out that many politicians waved the electronic vote as a slogan and presented it as an ex-officio solution to many of the problems we have regarding the way elections are held in Romania, the democracy from we from the country, and politics in general. The same idea was conveyed a few years ago, another idea that sounded good and promised many: the uninominal vote.
When we talk about these ideas it is important to understand that they are not a panacea and that, most of the time, those who present them, either do not know what they are talking about, or are in a hurry to draw conclusions, or promise the sea with salt or try to manipulate us.
The two teams that participated in the debate were made up of a lawyer specialized in computer crime and three students from Babeș-Bolyai University, two from the Faculty of Law and one from the Economic Sciences, all experienced debates. What were the main ideas they presented:
- participation rates in elections are much lower than they should be and are constantly decreasing. The polls to which it is approaching 50%, as were the MEPs this year, or exceeding this threshold, have become exceptions;
- low voter turnout helps traditional parties, which benefit from party infrastructure, and disadvantages small parties. Electronic voting can significantly improve this;
- its introduction would make citizens more accountable and encourage greater civic involvement. Once people get used to electronic voting, it can also be used for referendums on various issues of national or local interest. When the man has the vote at hand, it is much easier to consult him on a problem and he has no excuse not to vote.
- The current voting system is often inaccessible to Romanians from abroad and this represents an effective restriction of a fundamental right. At the last presidential elections 380 thousand Romanians from the diaspora voted, below 10% of their total number;
- those images we see with the thousands of fellow citizens who stand with their queues for voting are revolting. We can romanticize their patriotism and blame the incompetence or ill-will of the authorities, but the only viable solution would be to discuss another voting system that would really change the situation;
- Romanians who make up the diaspora are a human and financial resource that we cannot ignore. The Romanian state has an obligation towards these persons, the right to vote representing a bridge between them and Romania. The current voting system is a blow to their sense of belonging to the country of origin.
- even if the introduction of tablets to elections has further improved the problem of vote fraud, this can still happen in the classical voting system, the methods being known and exploited, where there is the possibility and the electoral process is not carefully monitored;
- citizens' confidence in the current voting system is, however, very low. The first bank we always hear after elections is "How many dead have they voted this year?". This mistrust leads to apathy and absenteeism, causing people not to vote;
- The situations, especially in the rural area, when people go to vote and are greeted by the mayor or priest in the commune, are quite known, to make sure that they put the stamp on the candidate they need. We are under no illusions that these people will vote online overnight, but what will happen if they can?
- there is a great deal of confusion regarding the commercial relations carried out on the Internet (eBanking, online shopping, etc.) and electronic voting. If it is safe to provide the data for such services, why would not electronic voting be safe? Although the online environment seems safe, in essence it is not. In the case of commercial transactions, the risks and losses are assumed by those offering these services;
- unlike the commercial relations, where there is a satisfactory mechanism of compensation, in the case of the vote the frauds cannot be compensated, because a vote is not quantifiable;
- Online voting fraud in currently available systems can go undetected and perpetrators can escape unpunished. It's just one of the reasons why online voting is not widely implemented anywhere. Switzerland recently flirted with the idea but gave up on it, after an international commission concluded it would be bad.
- The implementation of an electronic voting system would cost a lot of money to make it sustainable. We must ask ourselves whether the benefits that they bring justify the costs or the respective funds could not be better used, in order to solve other pressing problems that Romania faces;
- any such expenses must be balanced with the benefits it brings, how many problems it would solve and how many people would help. That money can be invested in other things, which will have an impact on attendance, such as education;
- the benefits of electronic voting are marginal compared to the costs involved. In order to avoid queues at the diaspora polling stations, other solutions can be found, and in the next election cycle we will see some of them implemented.
- we are in the penultimate place in the European Union in terms of online access to public services, according to Eurostat data. Electronic voting is not the only or the best solution to solve the political apathy of Romanians;
- the problem of absenteeism is a real one but it is less about the difficulty of voting and more about the lack of access to information, information from vitiated sources, lack of political education or civic sense. Computerizing the vote would only make it more convenient, not more qualitative. This is why investing in education is much better;
- a common idea is that we can solve everything with the help of technology. It is driven by parties and new people in politics and we usually meet with members of a certain, more productive social category. But online voting rather solves their problems, not those of those who do not understand who to vote or do not differentiate between a free vote and a purchased one.
The debate seemed an interesting one and I summarized very briefly the things that were discussed. It is clear to me that absenteeism is a major problem for the health of democracy in the mioritic plains and the electronic vote is a concrete measure that would have the potential to improve things. The speech with investing in education sounds nice but it seems to me utopian. But whether electronic voting sounds like a good idea or not, it would be important to go to the vote, because people died 30 years ago to have this right.