Estonia and Switzerland are the only countries, out of all the countries that have started to implement electronic voting in some way, to have conducted surveys to determine the multifaceted effects electronic voting has on the voting process. These studies have shown that, far from making the voting process fairer and open to all; electronic voting seemed to yield a disproportionate number of younger, richer, more tech savvy voters. Also the total voter turnout seems to be unaffected or actually decrease when voting is electronic. It seems electronic voting, far from alleviating problems from the voting system, seems to actually generate new ones.
A study published by the Central European University in Hungary analysed the 2007 Estonian parliamentary elections that utilised remote electronic voting, giving voters the choice between a traditional ballot or an internet poll. The paper shows that despite the method being put in place to increase voter turnout, it had little effect on the overall turn out, with the vast majority of voters being the same politically engaged citizens that cast votes normally. However, the study also found that during the 2007 election there was also a higher voter participation in high income areas and from individuals with a formal education, indicating a greater digital divide following the introduction of electronic voting.
What on paper may look like an improvement is currently not the reality, more may need to be done to iron out the creases in the inevitable marrying of voting and technology but one thing is sure, more studies on the effects of electronic voting need to be carried out alongside the adoption of technologies. Although a Swiss study of online voting in two cantons in 2017 showed that there was no effect on the voter turnout, the same study indicated that this is a finding that may be changing over time. Electronic voting will certainly be introduced in the wider world, but the social impact shouldn’t be ignored, to advocate a slow introduction of tech into the voting process along side traditional paper ballots as it is being done in Estonia would be best practice. The process may be more expensive but it will allow this inevitable process to take place in a fairer and more honest way, taking care not to leave certain demographics behind.