Popularisation of e-Elections among Estonian Voters
E-voting may potentially lower participation thresholds and increase turnout, but its technical complexity may pose other barriers to participation.
Using Rogers’ theory of the diffusion of innovations, we examine how the usage of e-voting has changed over time. We use data on six e-enabled elections in Estonia between 2005 and 2013 to contrast the profile of e-voters with those voting by conventional means. The aggregate number of e-voters has continually increased, with one third of all voters casting their vote from a distance, over the Internet in 2014. We examine whether the increase in user numbers is an indication of a non-random technologically savvy subpopulation who has fully adopted the technology, after which no further increase in user numbers is to be expected, or of a true technological diffusion process with very diverse voter groups adopting the e-voting technology. The survey data spanning a period of eight years shows that voters who voted over the internet for the first time at any of the six elections are increasingly less distinguishable from regular paper ballot voters, suggesting that the popularisation process is indeed taking place. To put it in a nutshell, whereas a host of socio-demographic and attitudinal traits did distinguish regular voters from e-voters during the first three e-enabled elections, this is no longer the case. This means that to all intents and purposes e-voters today are essentially interchangeable with regular paper ballot voters and that statistical models are no longer able to predict who is more or less likely to vote electronically. These findings suggest that e-voting has the potential of being widely used among all voters, not just by a technology savvy and socio-economically privileged subpopulation. We stress that this happened in the course of just three separate e-enabled elections conducted over a period of four years. We conclude that even though e-voting solutions will not start spreading immediately, this will take place in a comparatively short timeframe when potential users see the cost and convenience benefits of this mode of voting.