Norway: online voting history and background

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Norway online voting background

The Norwegian have been very careful and elaborate in introducing electoral innovations. In 2009, the Ministry of Local Government and Modernization (KMD) then called Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development, announced an Internet voting system trial.

The system was first piloted in ten Norwegian municipalities for the 2011 local and county elections, during advance voting only, from August 10 – September 12, 2011. During the 2011 local government elections in those municipalities:
•    26.4 percent of municipal ballots and
•    27.24 percent of county ballots were cast over the Internet.

The system design was similar to the “double envelope method” used in postal voting. The use of receipt codes was provided as an extra feature to prevent possible cases of a compromised computer altering a ballot.  The receipt codes were provided to voters via an alternative electronic channel, i.e. a cell phone. Voters could then verify the receipt codes received from the cell phone against a printed list of codes on the voter card initially sent to them. It was all organized in a way that voters would have no doubts as to whether their vote was cast as intended.

For the 2013 Norwegian Parliamentary Elections, advanced voting took place between August 12 – September 6 2013. Advanced voting via the online channel figures in 2013 vs. 2011 show:
•    a 75% increase in advanced voting online
•    3 out of 4 who voted in advance did so via the internet
•     overall advanced voting figures 2013 vs. 2011 show a 60% increase in advanced voting on paper and online
•    23% of the country voted in advance.

In both cases the online voting system was provided by Scytl. According to the KMD the pilot projects were executed as intended and the technology used performed as expected in terms of security and functionality.

There you have it, the customer was happy; but the electoral world has its own set of rules. Due to political controversy and following the recent change in government which brought to power the Conservative Party, the Norwegian Government has decided to forestall any further piloting of novel voting methods in the immediate future. Historically, the Conservative party in Norway has been against online voting and the current prime-minister actually signed against it back in 2011. Online voting will probably not be used in this political term, but may be re-addressed in 2019.  It’s a pity if you ask me; the Norwegian paradigm was one of the most well organized ones that we have seen in the last few years. In the meantime municipal referendums, in Norway not bound by any legislation, may still opt to use online voting technology.