VILNIUS - Lithuania's parliament has voted down amendments to election laws that would have to legalized Internet voting, and rejected the possibility of revising them.
In a Jan. 17 vote, only 18 of the 74 MPs present voted for the amendments, while the remainder either voted against or abstained.
Security concerns were the main factor in the lawmakers' decision on the innovation, which would have allowed citizens to vote from home or other private locations via the Internet. The worry was that unlike with traditional voting, the district electoral commission would not be able to monitor the process or ensure ballot secrecy.
"The circumstance that voters must ensure secrecy of voting themselves seemed problematic to parliamentarians. Some people consider increased trust in voters to be a big disadvantage [of e-voting]," Zenonas Vaigauskas, the Chairman of Central Electoral Committee, told The Baltic Times.
Vaigauskas said in his opinion, e-voting does not violate the principle of voting secrecy, but a wide political agreement is necessary when choosing voting methods.
"I think that MPs feared e-voting might increase bribery of voters," Vaigauskas explained.
The parliament had approved the concept of online voting, as drafted by the Central Electoral Committee, at the end of 2006. The electoral committee later announced that an e-voting system could be in place as early as the 2008 parliamentary elections.
A possible influence on the lawmakers' decision was a Vilnius University feasibility study on e-voting that was released just before Parliament's deliberation on the issue began. The study suggests that neither Lithuania nor any country in the world can guarantee that the advantages of e-voting would compensate for its potential damage, BNS reported.
Liberal MP Vytautas Grubliauskas, one of the authors of the amendments, states on his Web site that the rational and professional arguments in favor of e-voting were not heard by MPs.
"It [the vote] was a demonstrative spit on the positive conclusions of at least three parliamentary committees, and the thorough work of a large group of people from the LRV [Lithuanian government] and the IPVK [parliamentary Informational Society Development Committee] was disregarded," Grubliauskas wrote.
Because parliamentarians rejected the possibility of revising the current proposal, advocates of e-voting must wait six months before proposing new amendments.
Many countries have experimented with Internet voting systems in local elections, while Estonia was the first country to use it nation-wide. In March 2007 the country became the first to use Internet voting in its parliamentary elections. In that poll, about 3.5 percent of voters cast their ballots online.
A survey carried out in October 2007 found that 15 percent of Lithuanians are "firmly determined" to vote via the Internet, 9 percent said they would probably vote online rather than at a polling station, and 47 percent prefer the traditional way of voting.