Introducing E-voting for the 2028 general elections

“Stop the count!” – three words that have recently caused widespread anger and incomprehension around the world.

Less than two days after the American presidential elections, Donald Trump called for a stop of the vote-counting process, because his lead in the Swing States slowly melted away while the number of pro-Biden postal votes increased ever more. It took four days for Joe Biden to become president-elect. This delay can be explained by the fact that in various US states – unlike in Luxembourg – postal votes were counted even if they had only arrived a few days after election day, as long as the postmark was correct.

In 2018, the “universal postal vote” was introduced in Luxembourg. Since then, each voter has the right to vote by postal ballot – without the need to declare the cause. A great success! Twice as many people voted by post in the 2018 legislative election than in the previous one. For residents of Luxembourg postal voting usually works without any problems.

Equal rights for every vote

Unfortunately, this is not true for voters who live outside the country, such as for the many Luxembourgish students living abroad. Most of the time, they only receive their ballot paper in the week before the elections. Consequently, postal votes often get back too late, especially when they are sent from places like London, Vienna or Munich.

In the last legislative elections, more than 5% of the ballots did not get back in time. That’s more than 2,000 voters – quite a lot, considering that the distribution of remaining seats often comes down to less than 100 votes.

The JDL is therefore advocating for the introduction of electronic voting, the so-called e-voting. This would make it easier for voters living abroad to cast their ballots. However, the electronic system should only serve as an additional way to cast one’s vote. E-voting should not only be possible online, but also in the polling station itself. This means that the traditional ballot paper and the postal vote should not be abolished.

In 2005, Estonia became the first country in the world to introduce the possibility of voting online. Around 44% of Estonian voters chose the new method in the last parliamentary elections. To prevent a third-party from influencing a voter – a risk that also exists with postal voting – the ballot paper can be filled out over and over again during the online voting phase, whereby only the last ballot paper is taken into account.

E-voting would also help to reduce the number of invalid ballots. In fact, the system would alert the voter if he/she had distributed too many votes, either because he/she had ticked some names in addition to a list or because he/she had made a miscount. In the last legislative elections in Luxembourg about 4% of the ballot papers were invalid. That’s almost 10,000 voters! In Germany this ratio only amounts to 1%. However, the German electoral system is also much simpler than the Luxemburgish one.

An important aspect of elections ¬– and especially of e-voting – is security. The secrecy of the ballot must be protected, the system must be reliable, and any attempt of fraud or manipulation must be prevented. That is the only way that e-voting will be accepted by voters.

One interesting solution could be offered by the new blockchain technology. Voters could cast their votes using an electronic key which they received in advance from a central authority. Each candidate would have some sort of account on which their votes were to be counted. Each voter would get a copy of his/her voting record, which could then be used for auditing purposes, so that fraud attempts would be extremely difficult or even impossible.

Of course, one would need to have the necessary computer knowledge to be able to perform this audit. This type of control would no longer be limited to state authorities, as it is today. It is very important that the voter’s identity remains encrypted in the future. High-performance computers could help us to do so.

Since the set up a secure e-voting system for Luxembourg would take some time, the JDL suggests to only introduce e-voting for the 2028 legislative elections.

Lou Linster

Vice President of the JDL, engineer and municipal advisor in Leideleng

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