The piloting and testing of electronic voting must take place in a well-coordinated manner. Commentary by Victor Guzun and Mihai Mogîldea

"The implementation of alternative voting methods is an obvious necessity, especially for citizens from the diaspora. At the same time, this process is a complex one, which requires a systemic approach on several legal, technological and educational dimensions, to ensure all the necessary conditions for the development of a functional and safe Internet voting system..."

On September 8, the Parliament of the Republic of Moldova approved in its final reading a series of amendments to the state budget law for the year 2022. One of the amendments concerns the allocation of approximately 8 million lei for the piloting of electronic voting. The inclusion of these financial means in the budget of the Central Electoral Commission (CEC) for the coordination of the electronic voting testing process was previously requested by the CEC in the context of the budget planning of this institution for the year 2022.

Although at the end of 2021 the Parliament did not comply with the demands from the CEC, currently there is political support among the majority of parliamentarians for testing this technical solution. This is gratifying and represents a political message of support for the coagulation of a broad majority at the legislative level in support of the introduction of internet voting as an alternative method of voting. However, it is important to point out that the process of testing internet voting cannot precede the stages of (1) broad public consultation and information on the features and mechanisms related to internet voting, but also (2) the amendment of the Electoral Code and related legislation to include internet voting as one of the voting options. In the absence of a systemic and well-organized approach among the decision-makers, there is a risk that this reform will be discredited in the eyes of the citizens of the Republic of Moldova.

The context and opportunity for the implementation of electronic voting

Recently, some important results have been recorded to facilitate the introduction of internet voting. In December 2021, the activity of the inter-institutional Working Group was initiated to develop the concept and action plan regarding the digitization of the electoral process and the piloting of internet voting as an alternative voting method, under the coordination of the Central Electoral Commission (CEC). This working group, made up of representatives of relevant public institutions (Ministry of Justice, Information and Security Service, Public Services Agency, Information Technologies and Cyber ​​Security Service) and civil society (Civic Coalition for Free and Fair Elections), worked in the period from January to June 2022 for the development of the internet voting concept "e-Voting", a document that contains the most important legal, technical and security elements related to electronic voting. The concept was approved by the CEC at the end of June and submitted to the Parliament of the Republic of Moldova for examination.

The "e-Voting" concept includes, among other things, an action plan for the implementation of Internet voting and a draft of the draft law to amend the Electoral Code and include a separate chapter for Internet voting. The steps and provisions included in these sections speak of the need for a well-planned effort at the level of public authorities, which does not jeopardize the understanding of the problem by the interested actors and compromise the confidence of citizens in the sustainability of the Internet voting system.

The consultations organized within the working group and the public discussions organized in the last year revealed the fact that the Republic of Moldova has all the necessary technological components for the implementation of internet voting. At the same time, in the context of the development of a new Digital Transformation Strategy 2023-2030, it is a priority to synchronize activities to promote digitization and encourage the use of digital services. On this dimension, the implementation of internet voting must be analyzed in the context of achieving the objectives of digital transformation and strengthening the cyber security of the Republic of Moldova.

Towards a systemic and coherent approach: recommendations for policy makers

Taking into account the mentioned factors and the need for a systematized approach in the process of implementing internet voting, we recommend the Central Electoral Commission, the Parliament of the Republic of Moldova and the specialized institutions to adopt a series of priority actions, as follows:

1. On the legal dimension, the formation of a Parliamentary Working Group that will analyze all the legal aspects related to the implementation of internet voting, organizing parliamentary debates in specialized committees, parliamentary groups and the plenary session of the Parliament, in order to adopt a legal decision on the admissibility of remote voting from an uncontrolled environment, if all security elements are ensured. Once authorized, this decision will specify which of the remote voting methods is most plausible for implementation: postal voting, one-way electronic voting, two-way electronic voting, or multiple remote voting methods.

Subsequently, the Central Electoral Commission will prepare the secondary legislation, principles and regulations necessary for the implementation of internet voting, in accordance with the recommendations CM/Rec (2017)5 of the Council of Europe. Following the debates in Parliament and the recommendations stipulated in the feasibility study, set out below, the Working Group at parliamentary level will propose to Parliament the amendments to the Electoral Code that will specify the admissibility of prior voting and the use of alternative technological methods, including electronic voting. Later, the Parliament will adopt the concept of Internet voting, including the measures that will be adopted in case of incidents.

2. On the technological dimension, the Technological Working Group will be formed which will consist of representatives of the Central Electoral Commission, the Electronic Government Agency, the Information Technology and Cyber Security Service, the Information and Security Service, ICT and cyber security experts, etc. The group will have the final mission to analyze, develop and implement the technical solution of internet voting, after the detailed analysis of the best practices in the world and the adjacent risks, proposing the technical specifications, in accordance with the recommendations stipulated on the national legal dimension (primary and secondary) and the recommendations of the Council of Europe.

For this purpose, a feasibility study and detailed technical analysis will be carried out. After the adoption of the internet voting concept, the competition will be announced for the technical development of the voting solution, the selection of the technical implementer, the development of the actual solution and the in-depth analysis of security and compliance with the electoral principles and adopted regulations. The security and compliance review will be performed by an independent entity (other than the technical developer) and will serve as a formal certification of the solution. It will be analyzed including the integrity, authenticity, availability, reliability, ensuring the secrecy of the vote, confidentiality, usability and accessibility of the proposed solution.

3. On the dimension of providing authentication certificates and digital signatures for citizens, measures will be taken to increase the number of citizens who hold those certificates, including through the implementation of the new MobiSign solution, especially in the diaspora, where there is an increased need to implement internet voting.

4. After adoption and implementation, the technical solution will be procured and all certifications will be secured. All financial, security, risk management, dispute settlement and institutional responsibilities will be clearly defined, distributed and empowered. A series of system tests can be carried out within simulated elections with the analysis of various technological aspects, security and correspondence with the adopted principles, with the subsequent improvement of the functionality of the solution, if necessary.

5. On the dimension of digital education, it is necessary to organize an extensive national information campaign about the benefits of online voting, how the internet voting solution will work, what are the measures to ensure security, reduce risks and mitigate them, and how any disputes will be resolved.

Instead of conclusions

The implementation of alternative voting methods is an obvious necessity, especially for diaspora citizens. At the same time, this process is a complex one, which requires a systemic approach on several legal, technological and educational dimensions, to ensure all the necessary conditions for the development of a functional and safe internet voting system. The development of the concept of internet voting and the amendment of the state budget by allocating the necessary resources for the development and piloting of the online voting solution represent strong messages of support for the need to implement internet voting by the Parliament of the Republic of Moldova, the Central Electoral Commission and specialized institutions.

At the same time, it is impetuous that the proposed recommendations be implemented in the most coordinated and coherent manner possible, with the simultaneous facilitation of several actions on various dimensions. Following this approach, it is realistic to implement internet voting in the presidential elections of 2024, the next election to be organized at the national level, with the participation of the diaspora.


Victor Guzun is an expert in the field of digitization policies at the Institute for European Policies and Reforms (IPRE).

Mihai Mogîldea is deputy director of the Institute for European Policies and Reforms (IPRE).


This commentary is published within the project "We and Europe - Analysis of Moldova - EU relations through innovative media and analytical products", implemented by the Institute for European Policies and Reforms (IPRE), in partnership with IPN, Radio Chisinau and, with the support of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation. The opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the authors.

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