Bulgaria to Test Online Voting in 2018
Remote online voting will have its first experimental introduction starting 2018, Bulgarian lawmakers decided on Wednesday.
The emergency session of full Parliament, that has been holding marathon debates and votes since Tuesday to pass a final version of the new Electoral Code, was the first to set a clear timetable for e-voting after the latter was overwhelmingly approved in a referendum last year.
A total of three tests will be held throughout 2018, each in a single Bulgarian region. If they prove successful, online voting will be officially introduced as a legitimate means to take part in an election for the 2019 European Parliament vote. By 2018, electoral officials will have to organize at least three simulations of online voting with fictitious parties, coalitions and candidates.
Voters who choose to cast a ballot online will be registered on a special website and will have to leave an email appress for contact.
If a voter casts a paper ballot after having used the online option, the latter will become void.
The text was passed by a majority of 118-6 with three abstentions. The Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), was the political force that openly opposed online voting, asserting that it was an easy target of manipulations.
But Parliament Speaker Tsetska Tsacheva said that, although the vast majority of MPs had their fears about the system that will be built up to ensure transparent online voting, the step should be taken for the sake of progress.
"Every novelty raises concern. If it weren't for the cavemen who showed their hands out of the cave, where it rains, lightning strikes, and trees fall, where would humankind be now?"
The main coalition partners, Prime Minister Borisov's conservative GERB and right-wing Reformist Bloc, were at odds over the right time for the introduction of e-voting. While GERB maintained it should be applied as early as the presidential election last year, the Reformist Bloc made clear more time would be needed from a technical point of view to ensure there would be no misuse of the system.
It was online voting that triggered the process of amendment to the Electoral Code, leading to subsequent controversial changes that include the introduction of compulsory voting and rules for deresigtration and re-registration in the electoral rolls.
Another idea, a first-reading ban on the opening of polling stations abroad that are not in diplomatic missions, sparked outrage from communities living out of Bulgaria.
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