By Krassen Nikolov
Last February, the Bulgarian Parliament decided to abolish the paper ballots and to introduce the machine voting for all national elections after 2020. The change in the law was imposed by the public’s doubts that the elections results were manipulated. International organizations rate the Bulgarian elections as relatively fair, although so far there have been numerous scandals in the counting of paper ballots in a limited number of polling stations.
One of the main opponents of the law change was the former Deputy Chairman of the Central Electoral Commission Mikhail Konstantinov. He is a professor of mathematics and one of the biggest experts in the field of electoral systems in Bulgaria.
“There is no machine voting in Europe, in all of Europe, not just the EU. The countries that had it – like Germany, the Netherlands and Ireland, have abolished it. I am not sure of the positive effect of introducing it in Bulgaria,” Konstantinov said in an interview for Monitor daily after the parliament changed the law. He repeated his thesis in several television interviews.
This website has checked if this statement is true, using the IDEA database at https://www.idea.int/ (IDEA – International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance). IDEA is an intergovernmental organization that specializes in studying electoral systems around the world and helping countries in this area. 31 countries from all over the world are in IDEA, including the European countries Belgium, Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. The organization has the status of Permanent Representative at the United Nations. Secretary-General of IDEA is former Belgian Prime Minister Yves Leterme.
All EU member states plus the larger members of the European Economic Area – Switzerland, Iceland and Norway – were checked.
The check proved that Mikhail Konstantinov’s statement is not true. Three European countries use different variations of machine voting.
Belgium uses electronic voting of all kinds of elections and referendums. The state uses electronic printers that are not connected to the Internet. A similar technology has been used in Bulgaria in some sections.
In Switzerland for all kinds of elections there is a combination of machine voting with digital devices and Internet voting. France allows machine voting in limited cases, mainly abroad. Digital voter registration machines are used. The intelligence services have recommended that electronic voting should not be used in the 2017 election due to cyber-threat, but it was not abolished.
The most liberal voting is in Estonia. People can vote online there.
EU countries where machine and internet voting have never been used are Austria, Greece, Denmark, Ireland, Spain, Italy, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Great Britain, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Hungary , Croatia, the Czech Republic, Sweden and Iceland.
There are four European countries that used machine or other electronic voting, but have abolished the option because of security concerns – Germany, the Netherlands, Finland and Norway.