М. Мусял-Карг









Следствием широкого применения новых технологий в общественной жизни является изменение функционирования современной демократии. Развитие ИКТ (Информационно-Коммуникационные Технологии) и новая форма демократии - электронная демократия - дают новые перспективы для развития демократического диалога, они могут позволить миллионам граждан участвовать в общественных дебатах и принимать решения (путем электронного голосования). Целью данной статьи является ответ на вопрос: как электронная демократия и электронное голосование меняют современную политическую жизнь? Является ли это революция или просто улучшение, модернизация политической сферы?

Ключевые слова:

электронная демократия, электронное голосование, выборы, ИКТ, модернизация.

M. Musiat-Karg




The main consequence of a wider application of the new technologies in public life is a change of the functioning of a modern democracy. The rapid development of ICT (Information and Communication Technologies) and forming of the new form of democracy - electronic democracy - gave a new prospect for the development of democratic dialogue and made it possible for millions of citizens to participate in public debate and decision-making (through electronic voting). The main purpose of this text is to answer the question about the extent to which e-democracy and the use of e-voting in politics may change contemporary political life. And whether this is a revolution, or just improving, modernizing the realm of politics?

Key words:

e-democracy, e-voting, modern technologies, choice, ICT, modernization.


The Internet has become a tool for politics. Development of the tool led not only to changes in implementation of democratic principles, but also caused changes in the way how numerous aspects of democracy function. We may thus assume that importance of the Internet as a medium in political life is increasing. As time goes by and technology progresses, politicians become aware that it is necessary to use the Internet as a way to reach society. Development of ICT and a new form of democracy - that is the electronic democracy - created a prospect for democratic dialogue and may enable millions of people to participate in public debate and make decisions through electronic voting. E-

democracy has a potential to overcome barriers, which now hinder or prevent those eligible to vote from participation in decision-making processes.

The main objective of this text is to answer the question about the extent to which e-democracy and the use of e-voting in politic change contemporary political life. And whether this is a revolution, or just improving, modernizing the realm of politics?

Information technologies play vital role in modern world, they permeate almost every aspect of social life in most of the countries. What is more, modern information and communication technologies developed to a degree (and they are developing continuously) which attracted attention of researches and became a popular topic for academic investigations. Social consequences of information revolution - connected with development of the so-called information society -are more and more often discussed and pondered by many scholars [1].

Information revolution, which progresses together with modern technologies, is currently the main driving force of globalization. Robert O. Keohane and Joseph Nye connect this notion with rapid technological progress within the field of computers, software and communication process that led to considerable decrease in costs of processing and transferring information [4, p. 200].

The most obvious association with the information revolution is the possibility to provide various services on the Internet: online shopping, online correspondence etc. In fact, many areas of modern life remain influenced by modern technologies and transformations that follow. Development of the Internet and cellular communication impacts life of millions of people world-wide, but the processes are a phenomenon, which alters rules of social life in broader perspective [9; p. 9]. The same happens with politics and administration, which are vulnerable to developing technology.

New technologies and democratic power - e-democracy

New media (i.e. other than the press, television and radio), sometimes referred to as non-traditional mediums, consolidated their permanent presence in social life. Taking into consideration the application of ICT in political life, the most popular instrument (having perhaps the second largest influence on politics, after television) is the Internet, which in simple words may be defined as a global computer network. The Internet can be described as the most enormous set of information and services in the history of mankind. Its users communicate with each other; they conduct researches, cooperate and carry out commercial transactions. The above processes happen quickly, beyond borders of countries and with freedom unbelievable before. It may be stated that the Internet, which in fact came into light during the last decade of 20th century, is now an undisputed leader among modern mediums. The influence this tool has on politics is also undisputed.

Development of information technologies created a new prospect for democratic dialogue. At the same time, we discovered new notions, such as: teledemocracy, technopolitics and electronic democracy [8, p. 179]. Mirostawa Grabowska and Tadeusz Szawiel describe those new phenomena using the notion of teledemocracy, which in their opinion may enable millions of people to participate in a debate and make a decision through voting [7, p. 84]. Teledemocracy is capable of overcoming barriers, which now hinder or prevent those eligible to vote from participation in decision-making processes. Lawrence K. Grossman researched political system of the USA and claimed that "large factions of the society, mobilized by possibilities created by elder and newer techniques of interactive communication and as a consequence of increased dissatisfaction with the style of professional politicians, clerks and elected representatives, are seeking chances to control politics. They want to reduce responsibilities of politicians by limiting tenures, amending budget and carrying out referenda" [3, pp. 287-289].

The most commonly used notion, which describes current changes in modern democracy (which are the consequence of applying the Internet and other ICT tools), is the notion of electronic democracy. In the view of those who support implementation of new technologies, the modern civilization is now facing the era of electronic forms of administration [5]. It is worth to add, that electronic democracy is incorrectly identified only with internet democracy. The literature lacks a uniform approach within the scope of differentiating those two types of democracy. As it was mentioned above we may list electronic democracy (e-democracy) and internet democracy (i-democracy). E-democracy is a notion of broader meaning and we may treat i-democracy as one of its elements. The practical dimension of electronic democracy is based on the application of each of the ICT tools that is digital television, telecommunications, the Internet [16]. Internet democracy is a form of administration, in which the main role is played by the Internet.

The influence of ICT on society as well as political life is undeniable. Implementation of modern technologies into democratic power is undoubtedly a revolution, but technical difficulties and mental restrictions may probably extend the revolution in time for many years or even decades. However, it seems that there is no other possibility. The Internet is the one of the information and communication technologies that is widely used in social and political life. The Internet is a many-to-many medium of communication, contrary to radio, television and telephone, which are tools of few-to-many and few-to-few mediums respectively [19]. Most of the countries appreciate advantages of this medium and apply it more and more often, which leads to the previously mentioned changes in political life. Hence, we may state that the modern democracy is changing considerably.

The problems connected with implementation of new technologies into decision-making processes is also discussed by Andrzej Kaczmarczyk, who claims that in the future the rights and responsibilities of a citizen would be fulfilled through an infrastructure based on information and communication technology. A vital role would be played by electronic voting [15, p. 47] which is currently implemented in some countries. According to the definition of e-voting - «electronic voting [...] is a voting that take place with the help of electronic means. From the field of electronic voting we may distinguish computer voting, which may denote online voting and internet voting, which requires a computing device with access to the Internet to cast a vote» [15, p. 50].

E-voting as an element of e-democracy - the prospect of political market

Electronic democracy may be discussed in the context of political market, which is a communication space used by the parties (which play the role of broadcasters) and political institutions (the role of information channels) that transfer their offer to electorate (recipients) through mass media [1, p. 91]. Thus, we may distinguish three groups of players on the political market. The first group is comprised of institutions of political characteristics, parties and political organizations. The second group is the electorate and numerous associations and social groups. The last set of players on the political market is mass media, which happen to be a kind of intermediary between the first and the second group [1, p. 93]. Despite the fact that political market experience three main processes: informing, communicating and voting, this work focuses solely on the third one - that is voting. It is also worth noticing that information and communication technologies, and above all the Internet, impact democratic processes by supplementing, quickening and improving the three types of activities: transfering information, engagement into political debate and participation in political decision-making processes [6].

Taking into account the structure of political market we may graphically present the impact of the Internet application on voting.

The third type of relations between players of the political market is voting. One of the biggest benefits of the Internet is that electronic democracy has the potential to break down barriers, which hinder or restrict eligible voters from direct participation in decision-making processes. Internet electronic voting is interesting to many public institutions, political parties and politicians. It is a subject of researches, pilot programmes, as well as commercial offers.

E-voting is gaining importance and becomes one of the key elements of e-democracy, which is increasingly more often applied in given countries and used by electors themselves.

According to many researches who study problems connected with implementing new technologies into decision-making processes, in the future the rights and responsibilities of a citizen would be realized with the help of an infrastructure based on ICT tools. A key element of that would be electronic voting, which (as mentioned above) is currently being implemented in numerous countries.

Scheme 1. The process of voting on political market (traditional and modern dimensions)

Electronic voting (e-voting) jest commonly confused with internet voting. Electronic voting is a broader notion than internet voting. In the broadest sense, e-voting should be perceived as voting through electronic means [...] from the field of electronic voting we may distinguish computer voting, which may denote online voting and internet voting that requires a computing device with Internet access to cast a vote" [15, p. 50]. In practice, electronic voting refers to application of digital television, telecommunication and the Internet into polling techniques [16].

It is worth mentioning that at electronic voting telecommunication techniques may be used during collection, analysis and representation of results received from electoral commissions, which function traditionally -as votes are being cast on ballot papers, at summing the votes up, and also at remote voting through the Internet.

I-voting is one of the forms of electronic voting. On account of the places, where votes are cast through i-voting, we may distinguish: Internet Voting at the Polling Place (IV@PP), where votes are cast at polling stations and then transferred online to administration; and Remote Internet Voting (RIV), where votes are cast at any place connected to the Internet and then transferred online to administration 2; p. 34]. Taking into account

forms of democracy (representative and direct) we may list two types of electronic voting: electronic election (e-election) and electronic referendum (e-referendum).

At current conditions of technological development the popularity of electronic voting increases - mainly because it is a new and (as it seems) an attractive and convenient phenomenon for hundreds of millions of people world-wide. Many electors prefer e-voting (and particularly online voting) to traditional methods [12]. It is the result of the fact that voting from a computer connected to the Internet is more convenient (especially for those, who cannot visit polling station due to health conditions or those, who are away from home), quicker and does not make an elector to leave his or her home.

Undoubtedly, the world pioneer among countries which introduced e-voting system are the United States, where polling procedures involve use of special devices equipped with touch screens. Thanks to those devices the voting takes shorter and according to producers of the devices - the polling is considerably cheaper [13]. Implementation of electronic voting in the United States is generally attributed to the administration of the President William J. Clinton and Vice-President Albert Gore, who both viewed implementation of electronic administration and electronic democracy as their primary objective [16, p. 9]. The first electronic election took place on 11 March 2000 in Arizona, where at that time the Democratic Party was electing their candidate for the President. Despite some difficulties, over 17 thousand democrats in Arizona cast their votes through the Internet during first two days of early online elections. During the elections in 2008, electors registered in Arizona who lived abroad voted online thanks to a new system implemented by the local secretary of state [11].

Not only in the United States, but also in many European countries, implementation of ICT into voting procedures has been started or has already finished. What is important, in spite of many problems (pointed out by Americans, among others) works on e-voting systems are developing rapidly.

Very successful attempts related to introduction of e-votings are associated with the electronic voting systems from Switzerland. The process of testing and implementation of three pilot voting projects (that included cantons of Geneva, Zurich and Neuchatel) was initiated already in the year 2000. Firstly, a federal decision has been made, then communes and cantons were supposed to individually decide about the project. The Swiss pilot projects were based on the Internet and mobile phone voting. They resigned from the voting via mobiles.

The fundamental aim of implementation of e-voting systems in Switzerland was to provide additional platform that would enable voting in ref-

erenda and elections (particularly for the disabled people and the Swiss living abroad) and allow to put the so-called digital signatures when submitting proposal connected with an initiative, referendum or election. The Swiss do not mean to replace current manners of voting (by ballot boxes or by mail) but their aim is to guarantee additional solution that would result in a higher voter turnout. The most important group of voters, who would be mostly interested in the implementation of e-voting, are young people that use the Internet (they usually did not participate in previous elections), the Swiss who live away from their home county and each voter who is not capable of participating in elections due to e.g. physical disabilities.

One of the European, and the global leader in applying electronic voting procedures into elections is Estonia. The citizens of that small European country have the possibility to vote online since 2005 and what is important - the Estonian government considers the effects of implementation of the new voting system as a success.

The Estonian electronic voting system is based on Remote Internet Voting . Estonian voter who wants to vote in such a way needs: an identity card of the new generation, that is (eID-card) with valid certificates (renewed on a webpage), PIN numbers (issued together with eID cards) and a computer with eID card reader, an Internet connection and one of the following operating systems installed: Windows, MacOS, Linux [14].

It was reserved at the implementation of e-voting system in Estonia that electronic voting must be as similar to the traditional voting as possible. What is more, conformity of voting to law and rules of elections, and making e-voting as secure as traditional voting were necessary [10]. According to Estonian electoral law, e-voting is held from the 10th do the 4th day before the day traditional election starts. From the standpoint of technical issues, it is necessary to make an electronic voting system as simple as possible, and transparent enough to enable experts check its proper functioning.

Being one of the leading global investors in the field of ICT, The Estonian government managed to build an extremely powerful technological infrastructure: already in 2009, as much as 63% of households in that small European country had access to the Internet. The number of households connected to the Internet almost doubled from the moment of introducing online voting for the first time in 2005. Now, over 70% of Estonians at the age between 16 and 74 use the Internet [17].

According to the proponents of e-voting, an increase of the turnout level is one of the key arguments to use electronic voting, that is often regarded as a cure from the democratic crisis due to the decline in citizen participation.

Researches into the application and efficiency of i-voting in Estonia suggest that the attitude among Estonians towards this new electronic form of voting at the beginning of e-voting implementation process was and still remains positive, and the new method for voting attracts a higher and higher percentage of eligible voters

There were five internet votes of binding character in Estonia between 2005 and March 2011. The first time voters had the possibility to vote online were the local elections in 2005. Another internet vote happened two years later at the parliament elections. In 2009 Estonians could vote online twice - firstly in June during the second elections for European Parliament in Estonia and in October during local elections. In March 2011, Estonians elected their next national Parliament - they also voted online on this occasion.

Table 1. I-voting in Estonia - comparison of selected information*

ELECTIONS 10.2005 03.2007 06.2009 10.2009 03.2011

Turnout (%) 47.43 61.91 43.88 60.6 63.5

I-voters 9 317 30 275 58 669 104 413 140 846

I-turnout (%) 0.91 3.46 6.54 9.74 15.4

Percentage of i-votes in relation to all of the votes cast (%) 1.85 5.44 14.68 15.74 24.3

Comparing percentages of i-turnout in 2005 and 2009 local elections, and of national parliamentary elections of 2007 and 2011 we can see that the numbers increased visibly: in local elections the growth was by the factor 10.67%, and in Riigikogu elections by 4.46 %.

Comparing the development of the final turnout of these elections one may notice that the participation in national parliamentary election increased only by 2%, and it cannot be treated as proof that e-voting impacts the level of citizens' involvement. It rather suggests that those who usually voted in a traditional way changed their channel of casting their vote into i-voting.

However, this statement cannot be applied in the case of local elections. The most significant change in the level of electorate participation and parallel in the level of turnout when the i-voters are evident in Estonian local elections. From 2005 to 2009, the general turnout increased by 13% - from ca. 47% to about 60%. Simultaneously the number of those who voted online grew 11

* I-voters - those eligible, who voted via internet; i-turnout - internet turnout (percentage of those eligible who voted via internet).

Source: My own studies based on information from Estonian National Electoral Committee.

times. Thus, we may state that the e-voting positively influences the turnout in elections at the local stage.

The analysis of the data in table 1 leads to the conclusion that the constant boost in Internet votes since 2005 to 2011 is an evidence for the demand of citizens to have more comfortable and easier way to participate in elections.

To sum up, it should be stated that the Estonian model of online voting is in many respects a success - especially if we consider citizens' usage of i-voting and their participation in local elections. Estonian authorities claim that the so-called Remote Internet Voting is a socially anticipated feature of the electoral process in the country, and the feature is highly important from the standpoint of electorate participation levels.

Although it is not a hard evidence, we may consider data given by the Estonian Electoral Commission: the turnout in parliamentary elections slightly increased from 58.2% in 2003 to 61.9% in 2009, and during European Parliament elections from 26.8% in 2004 to 43.9% in 2009 [18]. Moreover, increasingly greater percentage of i-votes in the structure of all votes cast may confirm that Estonian society displays a high level of confidence in new electoral methods.


One of the most important tools of electronic democracy is e-voting, which in recent years has been increasingly more popular in various parts of the world. This is confirmed by greater number of pilot projects and initiatives connected with e-voting. Despite this positive trend, many modern countries still remain very cautious when it comes to decisions connected with voting systems based on ICT. Such an attitude is generally a consequence of opinions voiced by opponents of application of electronic tools in democratic procedures, who claim that the e-voting is an insecure system, which means it does not provide enough confidentiality and universality of elections.

It is worth mentioning though that despite negative opinions practice of countries which implemented e-voting shows many favourable experiences within that scope (Estonia, Switzerland). It should be noticed that supporters of application of electronic voting claim that it may help overcome current crisis in democracy. It is connected with the fact that low turnout may contribute to a situation, when a decision of country's administration or other political decision would be made by minority of electors, which in turn may lead to decreased legitimization of the decisions. Such circumstances can make implementation of electronic voting and modernization of voting systems more attractive. In spite of many technical problems connected e.g. with providing safety of elections, many various benefits (for various groups: electors, politicians, administration) and positive experiences of many countries may eventually become a stimulus for introducing e-voting in Europe as well as in other countries world-wide. Nev-

ertheless, implementation of e-voting systems can lead to numerous challenges and dilemmas.

Summing up, we must emphasize that electronic voting can be treated as a revolution - especially by electors. This modern solution facilitates the process of voting and eliminates the necessity to e.g. leave home to cast a vote. An elector with an access to the Internet, taking advantage of the new method, would be able to voice his or her opinion on important issues anytime and from anywhere.

From the prospect of a political system, the electronic voting does not seem to be such a revolutionary solution as it is perceived by the electorate, though. It does not change the system of a state's institutions thoroughly enough, but is rather supplementary and provides assistance. E-voting has an obvious potential for e.g. increasing turnouts (and thus increases legitimization of decisions made). However, we currently lack evidence which would show that citizens will be more active in the political sphere through electronic voting.


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