How Much Does an e-Vote Cost? Cost Comparison per Vote in Multichannel Elections in Estonia

Chapter (PDF Available) · October 2018with 1,167 Reads
DOI: 10.1007/978-3-030-00419-4_8
In book: E-Vote-ID 2018, Publisher: Springer, pp.117-131
Cite this publication
Abstract
We are presenting the results of the CoDE project in this paper, where we investigate the costs per vote of different voting channels in Estonian Local Elections (2017). The elections analyzed involve different processes for casting a vote: Early Voting at County Centers, Advance Voting at County Centers, Advance Voting at Ordinary Voting District Committees, Electronic Voting, Election Day Voting, and Home Voting. Our analysis shows how the administrative costs per e-vote (an electronic vote) are half the price of the second cheapest option (Election Day Voting), representing the most costefficient way of organizing elections, given the conditions of this Case Study. Otherwise, different forms of convenience voting have much higher costs, giving us subjects for further discussion on how to organize multichannel elections.
How Much Does an e-Vote Cost? Cost
Comparison per Vote in Multichannel
Elections in Estonia
Robert Krimmer
1
, David Duenas-Cid
1(&)
,
Iuliia Krivonosova
1
, Priit Vinkel
2
, and Arne Koitmae
2
1
Tallinn University of Technology, Akadeemia tee 3, 12618 Tallinn, Estonia
{robert.krimmer,david.duenas,iuliia.krivonosova}@ttu.ee
2
State Electoral Ofce of Estonia, Tallinn, Estonia
{priit.vinkel,arne.koitmae}@valimised.ee
Abstract. We are presenting the results of the CoDE project in this paper,
where we investigate the costs per vote of different voting channels in Estonian
Local Elections (2017). The elections analyzed involve different processes for
casting a vote: Early Voting at County Centers, Advance Voting at County
Centers, Advance Voting at Ordinary Voting District Committees, Electronic
Voting, Election Day Voting, and Home Voting. Our analysis shows how the
administrative costs per e-vote (an electronic vote) are half the price of the
second cheapest option (Election Day Voting), representing the most cost-
efcient way of organizing elections, given the conditions of this Case Study.
Otherwise, different forms of convenience voting have much higher costs,
giving us subjects for further discussion on how to organize multichannel
elections.
Keywords: Multi-channel elections Calculation of costs TDABC
BPR
1 On e-Government, e-Voting and Calculation of Costs
Since McLuhan coined the notion of a global village [42] for the current Information
Society [56] we adopted, naturalized and routinized the use of technology for several
constituents of our daily life. The leap to an online world of Public Administration [36]
had often been regarded as a potential cornerstone for managerial reform and creating
future systems of governance [45]. In relation to this, e-government, following Yildiz
[61] can facilitate better structures for interconnectivity, service delivery [5], efciency
and effectiveness [24,50], decentralization, transparency and accountability. Citizens,
already used to relating with others (friends, family and businesses) use online tools
and consider the use of e-government measures as a normal step in the development of
technology-based relationships [8].
Estonia is one of the pioneering and leading countries in adopting e-government
tools [1,27,32,51], thanks to the three layers forming the backbone of their gov-
ernment services: the X-road system, the electronic ID and the service provision eesti.
©Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018
R. Krimmer et al. (Eds.): E-Vote-ID 2018, LNCS 11143, pp. 117131, 2018.
https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-00419-4_8
ee [41]. Amongst the causes for this success Kalvet [27] lists: (1) utilizing an e-
commerce role model for the use of ICT in the public sector [55]; (2) the presence of
enthusiastic and visionary civil servants who developed information systems in the
public sector [63] and politicians focused on developing a program of e-government
[17]; (3) a favorable legislative environment towards ICT; (4) stable funding for ICT
expenditures; (5) the adoption of the Estonian ID-Card by public administration; and
(6) cooperation between the public and private sectors, especially the banking sector as
a generator of expectations regarding e-government services and as a general catalyst
for e-government (p. 146). As a result, Estonia represents an ideal venue for observing
different dimensions of e-related expressions such as e-government, e-voting, e-
banking or e-commerce [30].
1.1 Convenience Voting and Electoral Complexity
The adoption of e-voting strategies can be inserted into the context of the battle against
the consolidated tendency for a declining turnout [4,39], which is challenging global
understanding and the functioning of the democratic process. Some of the causes
described for understanding this decline have been summarized as (1) the transition to a
less competitive electoral scenario, (2) a generational decline in the will to participate in
the political process and (3) a transformation of values that lead to political engagement
[6]. The disengagement of citizens at elections threatens the correct functioning of
democracy by unbalancing the distribution of power and representation between those
who participate and those who do not [37], having spillover effects on the global
legitimacy of the system of governance and its decision-making [9,48]. Many gov-
ernments and Electoral Management Bodies react by actively seeking out, testing
and/or implementing improvements to traditional voting systems, presuming that a
more convenient voting system will have positive impacts on the turnout at elections
[57].
As a result, new systems for early or convenience voting had been proposed in a
number of countries [31,34], and administrative rules and procedures have been
adapted to allow citizens to cast their vote at different moments in the election cycle
[20], trying to increase the comfort of voters and ease voterscomfort [2,7].
Administration of elections represents a necessary factor inuencing voter turnout: an
adequate voting system might not increase the number of voters, but an inadequate one
will denitely decrease it. Although election administration differs from context to
context, it is still commonplace that new voting channels cannot replace but can only
complement existing methods of participation in elections due to the responsibility to
provide a service to the entire electorate [19,62]. However, the opportunity to rethink
and optimize electoral administrative procedures when introducing these additional
voting channels is often missed.
The Estonian e-vote remote online voting system, in use since 2005, turns Estonia
into the only country in Europe (if not in fact the world) to use this without restriction
in all types of elections [54]. The Estonian I-voting project was established in order to
sustain and increase voter turnout by creating an additional and convenient voting
channel that would be in coherence with efcient use of the infrastructure already in
existence [28]. Estonian e-voting systems can be considered a successful and widely
118 R. Krimmer et al.
used voting mode (over 30% in the last three elections) but with an unequal impact in
different subpopulations [52].
The adoption of multi-channel electoral systems poses a set of new challenges to be
considered by public administrations, including additional workloads for electoral
administrations, increased vulnerability from double voting, increased length of voting
periods or difculties derived from overlapping voting periods [59]. Previous research
studies to evaluate multichannel elections [34,60] indicated the three main areas of
concern: (1) multiple-channel elections increase the complexity for election adminis-
trations; (2) the increase in complexity requires business process reengineering of
electoral processes; and (3) it involves analyzing the cost of introducing new voting
channels. This situation addresses a different dimension in the debate on elections, how
to achieve the desired social goals with a reduced economic impact.
1.2 Cost Accounting
The analysis of the costs arising from running elections has attracted researchersand
practitionersinterest, but a large share of the research already conducted on this issue
had been focused on the costs for candidates and campaigns [22,26,47], the costs for
voters [14,16,23,46] or the costs of public information systems [12,40]. Other
projects that addressed the topic revealed (1) the increase in the cost of elections all
over the world [44], (2) the need to dene different kinds of electoral costs and the
analytical scope of the methodology [38], (3) the need to include costs incurred by
adding new voting channels, either high one-off costs (e-votes) or transaction costs
(postal voting) [35] and (4) the need to overcome the reduced level of transparency and
limited opportunities for scrutinizing certain voting modalities [13]. A clear and suc-
cessfully proven methodology for facing this challenge is still lacking [58], permitting
the calculation of costs of multichannel elections overcoming the previous difculties,
amongst others, (1) the lack of depth in approaches for calculating costs based on the
assessment of administrative costs through electoral budgets and their division by the
number of voters participating [18], the difculties of uncovering hidden costs and
dealing with different accounting systems and governance structures [10,38] or dif-
culties relating to the choice of methodology of directly questioning the source (levels
of response, overall quality of responses) [25]. Three main problems can summarize the
access to the costs of elections: (1) the difculties in accessing election costs [11], as
many democratic governments are not obliged to divulge this information; (2) the
difculties in recovering hidden costs from budgets; and (3) the difculties of allocating
the costs of public infrastructures to the organization of the election.
2 Methodology
For developing the research methodology, we referred to a broader research eld of
governmental cost accounting and business-oriented methodologies adapted for cal-
culating administrative management costs. Our goal not only relates to detecting
potential inefciencies in the electoral process or to raising awareness of the costs [43],
but also, in particular to deliver comparative results of the costs of different voting
How Much Does an e-Vote Cost? 119
channels, in order to enrich the existing literature on e-voting and electoral analysis. To
achieve this, our proposed methodology relies on the use of (1) Business Process
Reengineering (BPR) [3,21] for facilitating workow analysis of complex systems
(elections); and (2) Activity-Based Costing (ABC) [15,33] for calculating costs per
service/unit produced by the electoral system (votes), in particular, the use of Time-
Driven ABC (TDABC) [29], which reduces the volume of data required for conducting
the ABC analysis of (1) the practical capacity of resources committed and the costs
involved and (2) unit times for performing transactional activities.
Based on this, a model was developed with the following steps:
1. Conducting electoral process modeling based on the analysis of electoral legislation
and publicly available internal instructions, complemented with interviews with
stakeholders and on-site observations.
2. Creating a list of activities based on ndings from Step 1. Select only those
activities which are organized differently depending on the voting channel.
3. Identifying resource pools and determining costs assigned to each resource pool.
4. Attributing costs to activities (attribute directly if possible; attribute by proportional
time in other cases) in order to receive total cost per activity.
5. Calculating the practical capacity of resources (we set it at 80% of the theoretical
full capacity in line with the standard established in accounting research).
6. Dividing total cost per activity by the practical capacity, to receive cost per minute
per activity.
7. Dividing time spent on every activity by output to receive cost per output (in our
case, per vote or ballot paper) per activity
1
. Multiply this number by the unit cost of
a resource pool in order to receive the cost per vote or ballot paper per activity.
Total the cost per vote cast for all activities considered, in order to receive the cost
per vote used per voting channel.
8. Comparing costs per vote cast for different voting channels.
3 Case-Study
3.1 Case Selection
As was mentioned above, Estonia has a leading position in the development of e-
government and I-voting tools, having aroused the interest of many scholars trying to
understand the adoption of these tools by citizens [1], its impact on electoral turnout
[53] or internal processes in the I-voting system [40], leading many to consider Estonia
as a critical case in any relevant research on e-democracy.
Administration of Estonian elections is rather complex, permitting the multichannel
analysis proposed. Voters are simultaneously offered multiple voting channels (Fig. 1).
However, not all the voting channels are active during every election (voters residing
1
In traditional TD ABC the time per item of output is estimated. However, as is the case with
elections, we know precisely how much time is spent on every activity, we receive time per item of
output in the manner described above.
120 R. Krimmer et al.
outside Estonia cannot participate in Local Elections) and some of the voting channels,
when occurring, overlap both in their periods, like advance voting at county centers,
advance voting in ordinary Voting District Committees and Internet voting.
Two more elements endorse developing a case study in Estonia. Firstly, the fact
that Estonian elections by and large use the existing infrastructure, providing an
excellent opportunity to test analytical methodologies directed towards delving into
hidden costs. Secondly, the involvement of the Estonian Electoral Management Bodies
(State Electoral Ofce) in developing the case study and also the interests of Estonian
administration in implementing a similar cost calculation methodology to the one
proposed in this research by 2020.
With this background, Estonia has been selected as the rst case for us to test our
methodology and model. For this analysis, we focus on the most recent elections in
Estonia which happened to be the Local Elections taking place in October, 2017.
3.2 Case Description
Estonian local elections took place from October 515, 2017, and offered voters seven
different voting channels. Overall, it provided a turnout of 586,519 voters (53.3% of the
electorate), including 120,888 early and advance voters (20.6% of turnout) and 186,034
e-voters (31.7% of turnout). 279,597 voters cast their votes on Election Day (47.7% of
turnout). The results do not represent a big change from previous local elections in
terms of overall turnout, following the series of declining turnouts starting in 2009, but
indicate a consolidation of the use of e-voting (31.7% of votes cast) and the popularity
of voting in county centers (40% of all early and advance votes were cast in 28 county
centers, compared to only 60% of advance votes cast in 549 ordinary polling stations).
In order to conduct the cost analysis, we divided voting channels occurring in
relation to time of voting:
I-voting (10
th
to 4
th
day before Election Day).
Early Voting (10
th
to 7
th
day before Election Day).
Advance Voting (6
th
to 4
th
day before Election Day).
Election Day Voting.
In relation to the voting location, we consider:
Supermarket Voting - Voting organized in county centers (Early, Advance and
Election Day Voting).
VDC Voting - Voting organized in ordinary Polling Stations Voting District
Committees (VDC) according to the Estonian legal system (Advance and Election
Day Voting).
I-voting.
This division is based on the following criteria: (1) The differentiation between
voting organized online and voting at physical locations (Early, Advance and Election
Day Voting) is due to the obvious organizational differences and, as a result, activities
and costs involved; (2) voting organized in county centers and voting organized in
ordinary VDCs are analyzed separately due to a signicant difference in the number of
locations (28 county centers compared to 549 ordinary VDCs), staff involved (36
How Much Does an e-Vote Cost? 121
  • Chapter
    Full-text available
    Being a poster child of digital state, Estonia is a truly right place to find answers to the question on how it should be done first when it comes to achieving a real progress in modernizing governance through the use of information and communication technologies. It seems interesting to research how this nation promotes one of the latest trends in the development of the e-government concept—open data. In this regard, the chapter aims to understand what kind of political and socioeconomic drivers and challenges Estonia faces today in the diffusion of the open data concept among various stakeholders, namely government officials, developers, businesses, journalists, academia, and non-governmental organizations and how overcomes them, especially in areas that are related to the publication and, more importantly, to the reuse of datasets by third parties in various collaborative projects and civic engagement platforms.
  • Book
    Full-text available
    Catalunya té una llarga experiència en votacions electròniques, que, de fet, es remunten vint anys enrere fins a les eleccions autonòmiques de 1995, però es tracta de meres proves pilot no vinculants que miren de fomentar aquest nou format de decisió. Les eleccions de 2003 repetiren l’experiment, i el referèndum sobre la Constitució europea, el 2005, també inclogué proves experimentals de votació electrònica a quatre municipis catalans. Mentre que a escala catalana ens trobem, doncs, amb una trajectòria limitada, els municipis catalans han adoptat una posició més decidida, aprofitant la convocatòria de consultes populars en diversos formats. Callús (Bages) i Sant Bartomeu del Grau (Osona) són dos municipis pioners en l’ús d’eines electròniques per permetre l’expressió política dels seus veïns. Sant Andreu de Llavaneres ho assajà un cop, i cal citar també l’experiència a Barcelona sobre la reforma de l’avinguda Diagonal. Es tracta d’iniciatives ja una mica llunyanes i amb resultats dispars, però més recentment hem assistit a una certa revifalla d’aquesta qüestió en l’àmbit local. Diversos municipis han celebrat consultes populars electròniques en aquests darrers anys: Riudellots de la Selva, Premià de Mar, Olot, Girona i un altre cop Callús. A més a més d’aquests antecedents reals, cal assenyalar que la legislació catalana requereix la creació d’una plataforma institucional comuna de vot electrònic. La Llei 4/2010, de 17 de març, de consultes populars per via de referèndum, assenyala, en aquest sentit, que «el Govern ha de posar a disposició dels ens locals una plataforma tecnològica comuna que permeti la implantació homogènia del sistema de vot electrònic» (art. 58). D’altra banda, l’article 59 estableix un sistema de garanties i transparència en què es preveu una certificació externa del sistema de vot electrònic, una comissió independent de garanties i, entre altres mesures, la remissió d’un informe anual al Parlament. Més de set anys després, res de tot això s’ha dut a terme. D’altra banda, les consultes populars no són els únics àmbits on les votacions electròniques podrien ser útils per a la millora de la gestió pública. L’Administració inclou altres procediments en què es fa necessari que un col·lectiu determinat de persones es pronunciïn de forma individual i secreta. A títol indicatiu, les eleccions sindicals o les eleccions a consells escolars són dos procediments en què l’ús de noves tecnologies podria facilitar una gestió més eficient i, sobretot, un augment notable de la participació de les persones interessades. Tot plegat aconsella explorar la viabilitat de la plataforma institucional comuna de vot electrònic exigida per la Llei 4/2010, i, amb aquest objectiu, s’han reunit experts de les diferents disciplines involucrades en el desplegament d’un sistema de vot electrònic (dret, informàtica, sociologia, gestió pública) amb tècnics experts de les administracions públiques catalanes. El projecte posa en comú aquest ric ventall de perspectives i estableix les bases, en cas que es consideri finalment viable, d’una futura plataforma comuna de vot electrònic. Tenim, en aquest sentit, un precedent en el Consorci de Serveis Universitaris de Catalunya (CSUC), que disposa ja d’un sistema integrat de vot electrònic al servei de les diferents universitats.
  • Article
    Full-text available
    The article analyzes an open data movement in an unusual context of highly developed digital economy and widespread popularity of e-government services in a country that is universally well-known as one of the global leaders in promoting information society and electronic democracy, but paradoxically demonstrating modest results in propagating a presumably related concept of open government data. In this regard, paying special attention to the investigation of main drivers, stakeholders and challenges of the open data movement in Estonia, the author argues that a highly centralized administrative policy that has been widely used previously by authorities in advancing various technology-driven public reforms, which partly explains a truly impressive advance of this Nordic state in e-government, e-commerce, e-banking and evoting, does not necessarily lead to same effective results in the open data domain. On the contrary, the presence of established democratic institutions and developed civil society as well as an incredibly advanced and dynamic private ICTindustry that values competition and professional curiosity along with a very strong sense of patriotism and adherence to a particular neighborhood deeply rooted in Estonian society has played a much more important role in diffusing the concept rather than just traditional government directives and strategies.
  • Article
    Concerns have been raised that insufficient funding has been affecting the delivery of elections in many countries. This paper presents a case study of England and Wales from 2010–2016. It demonstrates that many local authorities saw major real terms cuts and were increasingly over-budget. Those subject to cuts were less likely to undertake public engagement activities. State efforts to encourage voter participation may therefore be a casualty of austerity.
  • Article
    Full-text available
    Purpose The purpose of this paper is to examine the propensity to use e-government services in post-communist countries in the European Union. Design/methodology/approach A survey was conducted among 7,984 respondents from the states of Bulgaria, Romania, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. The analysis focused on the following manifestations of e-administration usage in these countries: viewing websites run by public administration bodies, making contact with public administrations via e-mail, downloading the forms necessary to obtain a public service, sending completed electronic forms to appropriate offices, and contacting politicians, activists, or offices electronically to discuss matters important for a region or the whole state. Findings The results of the analysis presented in this paper show that there is a statistically significant relationship between the state of the respondent’s residence and the propensity to use particular forms of e-government. Practical implications Decision makers should create incentives to popularize electronic signatures, which are necessary to fully settle a matter in public offices via the internet. They could use financial assistance offered by the European Union to implement this technology. Moreover, they should award bonuses to private persons or entrepreneurs who use Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in their contact with the state administration, for example, by way of charging less for issuing a driving license, building permits, or other documents necessary to apply for a building permit. The use of ICT in the client-administration relationship would reduce corruption levels by limiting direct contact and allow for reconstruction of all of the digital records to apply for a given permit, document, etc. Originality/value With the rapid growth of internet (and e-commerce) worldwide, the public administration sector has many opportunities, especially in a developing democracy. The paper is unique because it shows data collected from almost 8,000 respondents and it presents a comparison of the use of e-government among citizens of nine European Union member states.
  • Conference Paper
    The introduction of remote electoral methods (also, e.g., postal voting) serves the citizen in providing an easily accessible and comfortable means of voting. In addition, remote voting is also considered a viable alternative for disenfranchised voters whose participation in elections has always been dependent on the methods they are offered – voters living or residing permanently abroad, voters who are living in conditions which make it difficult for them to attend elections for geographical reasons and voters with disabilities. All these voters need to make extra efforts in participating in the democratic process, and in all these cases, the principle of universality (or general elections) prevails over the possible concerns connected with the way of voting. Still, Estonia is the only country in the world providing remote electronic means to its citizens in all elections countrywide. In this article we try to explain the reasons and modalities how Estonia could retain this service where other countries failed.
  • Article
    Full-text available
    E-voting has the potential to lower participation thresholds and increase turnout, but its technical complexity may produce other barriers to participation. Using Rogers' theory of the diffusion of innovations, we examined how the use of e-voting has changed over time. Data from eight e-enabled elections between 2005 and 2015 in Estonia, were used to investigate changes to the profile of e-voters and contrast them to those voting by conventional means. Owing to the aggregate share of e-voters increasing with each election, with one third of voters now casting their vote remotely over the internet, there was a lack of conclusive evidence regarding whether the new voting technology had diffused homogenously among the voting population, or remained a channel for the resourceful and privileged. Our findings show that diffusion has taken place, but not until after the first three e-enabled elections. Thus, internet voting has the potential to be used by a wide range of voter types, bridge societal divisions, and emerge as an inclusive innovative voting technology.