Challenges of the organization of Estonian elections *
Even though the organization of elections in Estonia is based primarily on the enthusiasm of the election organizers who do this work as a additional job, we have managed in two decades to complete the building of a reliable and modern electoral system that is capable from an information technology and technical standpoint of making use of lists of registered voters.
The writer stresses that the organization of elections in Estonia is characterized by international respect – the last time the OSCE sent its primary election observation mission to Estonia was in 1999 for the Riigikogu elections. This gave our organization of elections a seal of approved quality and in the years since, we have worked with the OSCE only in the implementation of electronic voting, which required international attention. Undoubtedly the passing of time is characterized by changes in the tools used for the job – paper and pencil have been replaced by a computer screen and keyboard. All of the voting precincts – there were 632 of them in the last elections – have an Internet connection and a special electoral information system is used for gathering, transmitting and processing data. The voting procedure has likewise made an increasing transition to voters’ computers; in the last elections, over 100,000 voters used the option to cast their vote online. However, the writer does not fail to ask whether all participants in elections are prepared for the next developments and steps. Are we prepared for a cultural developmental leap? The writer asserts that as actual elections have shown, it is not possible to establish political culture using election laws and commands, prohibitions and punishments; it depends above all on consensus between the participants in the process and the general development of political culture.
*The article is based on the report of the author delivered at the conference „Elections and Governing in Information Society” on 20 November 2009. See also Maandi, K. (1995). Elections and Referendums in Estonia 1989–1995.