Bulgaria: e-voting’s new kid on the block

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electronic voting bulgaria

Bulgaria is the first Balkan country to experiment with electronic voting. It did so for the first time in May 2014 for the European Parliament Elections deploying 90 e-voting kiosks. A further deployment introducing 300 terminals of the same technology in miscellaneous polling stations around the country is scheduled to take place on October 5th 2014 for the early parliamentary elections. We don’t really know how things went in this first occasion as there has been no publicly available evaluation report to date.

The Bulgarian Government has contracted a company called Ciela Norma in both instances, effectively using Smartmatic technology, which the Bulgarians like to believe to be of Dutch origin. For some reason the Bulgarian Government procured a very primitive technical version of e-voting kiosks. The procurement was actually asking for a button that voters push to cast an e-ballot. It would be really interesting to know at some point the rationale behind this request in an age that smartcards are competing with biometrics. Maybe it has to do with the electorate’s technical literacy levels.

For the time being Bulgarian press is following this second procurement with articles that bring out a Balkan essence; a five day margin from procurement to submission of proposals, a grand total of two companies contesting for the contract, both of which end up being related to Smartmatic, a company that has received severe criticism in the past about its business practices in relation to foreign governments. Nonetheless, it is a step forward towards electoral modernization and as such it is welcome. Bulgaria is a new democracy and one of the poorest European countries. Let us grant this effort the time it requires before we measure its effectiveness. But let us also remind everyone that e-voting actually demands more transparency than a traditional electoral process and that goes for all its stages, from procurement till the final validation of the results.  The OSCE will be observing the October 5th election so there is bound to be an evaluation report in the near future. We will just have to wait this one out.