TALLINN/VILNIUS - Estonia's ruling Reform Party is preparing an amendment to allow people to vote by mobile telephone.
The party presented its 'm-voting' proposals Sep. 27 in order to prepare a bill along with its other coalition partners next week. If the partners give the initiative the thumbs up the legislation will be sent to parliament.
The head of the Reformist faction, Keit Pentus, said Estonia has always been at the forefront of information technology innovation.
In her words, the use of an ID card linked to a cell phone is no longer fantasy, and m-voting would make involvement in governance more accessible and convenient.
The idea of introducing m-voting was put forward in August by the Reformist deputy speaker of parliament, Kristiina Ojuland, who believes a viable scheme could be in place in time for the 2009 local elections.
In Ojuland's opinion, a mobile phone ID application would enable voters to identify themselves and give a digital signature.
She said that since April mobile ID SIM cards have been available which incorporate a person's mobile identity in addition to the usual SIM card functions that allow providers of Internet services to identify users.
"Mobile ID is more convenient in that one does not have to attach a special ID card reader to one's computer. A cell phone performs the functions of an ID card and card reader at one and the same time," she said.
The head of the parliamentary Constitutional Committee, Vaino Linde, said the introduction of m-voting would calls for substantial changes in election laws.
"M-voting is certainly a future option, but whether the process can be completed in a couple of years is a different matter," Linde told BNS in August.
Last year, Estonia was the first country to elect its parliament via the Internet. About 3.5 percent of all those who voted in the elections in March 2006 expressed their will online, enhancing the nation's reputation as 'E-stonia'.
Meanwhile in Lithuania, the country is almost ready to introduce its own online voting system.
All technical considerations for online voting in Lithuania are already in place and could be used as early as the 2008 general elections, if parliament approves, said chairman of the Central Electoral Committee, Zenonas Vaigauskas Sep. 27.
"In the technical sense, the possibility to vote in the next year's parliamentary elections is realistic, however, enormous explanatory work will have to be done. Society's response is unclear and, furthermore, a decision from parliament is also necessary - it has to adopt relevant amendments," Vaigauskas told BNS.
He has discussed development of an Internet-based voting system with Prime Minister Gediminas Kirkilas. In Vaigauskas' words, the premier is very enthusiastic about online voting.
The head of the electoral committee said that Internet-based voting has both ardent supporters and strong opponents among parliamentarians, adding it was too early to forecast the way of voting in the parliamentary elections next fall.
According to the most likely system, voters would be identified using electronic systems similar to those used in online banking.