Evidently dealing with a sacred cow, Chief Electoral Commissioner Joseph Church believes that every step in the digital transformation of elections in Malta “is a journey that includes difficult, yet not impossible, tasks”. A firm believer in the opportunities offered by the new technology to “improve the electoral process”, Mr Church, however, rules out a big bang approach. “I am conscious that any development has to take place within a mature debate with political parties. The dialogue among all stakeholders, addressing concerns and ideas in an open and transparent process, will help avoid contentions on the digital transformation of elections in Malta.” One might question the need to change Malta’s accepted voting system, which has served the county well for many years. The main reason motivating other countries to embark on an IT transformation of their electoral systems is improving turnout. However, it is very difficult to improve the turnout at a Maltese general election, as the lowest since Independence was 93 per cent.
WebRoots Democracy, a British youth-led pressure group, is lobbying the UK government to implement an online voting option by the 2020 general election.
The group says that while in 1964, 18-to-24-year-olds voted in the same proportion as those aged 55 and over, at the 2010 election, 44 per cent of 18-to-24-year olds voted, as compared with 74 per cent aged 55 and over It is estimated that online voting could boost youth voter turnout to 70 per cent.
Locally, the main political parties are not so keen on electronic voting, insisting that any voting system should ensure that no electronic trace of an individual voter’s choice is left in the process. This challenge is exacerbated by online voting.