Sunday, December 18, 2005

Polling Day Denmark or Iraqi style

Back to northern Europe and Denmark DK reports the great leap forward for election day - on line voting. Or is it? In Denmark voting is not compulsory and distributing election material on polling day is prohibited. So the great Australian tradition of compulsory voting and the how-to-vote festival at the polling booth gates is threatened by cyber-voting (and don't forget the A-frames pictured from my 2003 Bligh campaign). With some polls suggesting as many as 20% of voters do not make their decision until at the polling booth, one wonders what they would do in a cyber ballot. Maybe eCouncillor would have an on-line head-start with the eVoters?

Cyber election a click away

Voters in Ãrhus Municipality will be able to click on a candidate from home instead of having to journey to the polling booths at the local school and tick a box in upcoming school board elections
The education department of Ãrhus, Denmark's second largest city, announced that it would be making use of a Ministry of Education directive that allows school districts to make use of electronic voting or absentee ballots instead of traditional polling stations.
Research institute Gallup is responsible for organising the electronic election, which will take place in March, reported daily newspaper Urban on Friday.
The initiative would offer more convenience and boost voter participation, according to school official Lone Nielsen.
'Most parents have access to the internet, so we feel the time is right for an electronic election. Both because of the administrative and economic benefits and also to improve traditionally low voter turnout numbers,' she said.
The technological development might have major effects on democracy, according to Klaus Levinsen, a political scientist from the University of Southern Denmark. An electronic election might not necessarily increase voter turnout, he said.
'I'm afraid that the ritual surrounding voting - that we join forces and move out into the public sphere will be weakened if we just have to press a button at home,' said Levinsen. 'In Denmark, we have a strong norm that one ought to vote and this is strongly based on rituals.'
If the school board election goes well in Ãrhus, the technology might be used in larger municipal elections, according to Anders Hjorth Madsen, a project leader with Gallup.
'It should be possible in principle, but we would encounter completely different challenges, because a municipal election is bigger and more important,' said Madsen.
One of the major challenges of setting up a system that involved internet voting would be to ensuring that voters did not cast more than one ballot.
'It would require a system that is exceptionally stabile as well as the possibility to hold a test election to try out the system,' Madsen said.

Meanwhile Denmark and Australia's soldiers hold firm to build a fledgling democracy in Iraq. The Sydney Morning Herald's resident Iraq critic Paul McGeough reports that millions of Iraqis have turned out to their polling booths as the country struggles towards democracy. Go to the link for the full article and a very powerful photograph 'Border no barrier'.

Jubilant Iraqis turn out in millions to vote

By Paul McGeough Chief Herald Correspondent in Baghdad
December 17, 2005

Border no barrier … an Iraqi Sunni shows her ink-stained finger after casting her absentee vote in Amman, Jordan.Photo: Reuters

THEY came by the million, but it was the dramatic Sunni turnout for an election billed as the last piece in America's Middle East democracy jigsaw that turned heads from Baghdad to Washington.
Many of the Sunnis echoed their candidates' campaign spiels - anti-US, anti-Shiite, anti-constitution. But most of them came on a day on which most of the insurgents stayed away from the polls.
In a vice-like security clampdown, which banned movement by private vehicles for more than 72 hours and closed borders and airports, it was a relatively quiet day as Iraqis walked to vote. Read more

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