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Voting well done

Voting, more than electronic


Undoubtedly, the topic of elections is still, even after weeks of respite from the most spectacular elections of the last 20 years, on the first page of newspapers, but more importantly, on the first page of the internet - Facebook. I have read hundreds of opinions about what happened at home and especially in the diaspora and, at the risk of being completely unpopular, I was a little sad even if the general feeling remains a good one.

In software development, as far as I know, when a new product idea comes up, the most dangerous thing that can happen is unmeasured optimism. We fall in love with an idea, we hold it in our arms like the monkey raises the Lion King in the eponymous animation movie and we start the fight. The same thing happens now, when the electronic vote is this new Holy Grail, suddenly awoken from its slumber in a drawer of a ministry or parliamentary group and called to order. It must be done, it must be given, it must get voted, “Mr. Iohannis should come”, to quote from the classics.

We were asked, questioned and a little scolded that especially us, the boys from IT, do not have an opinion on the subject. Actually yes. We do have an opinion on the subject, but before expressing it we prefer to measure 15 times and only cut once. And on this note I return to what I said a little earlier. Of course, we also were extremely frustrated when we saw history repeating itself on Sunday, May 26, when many of our own volunteers, Romanians from the diaspora, failed to vote even after 10 hours in line, that even in the country we waited hours to vote, those of us who needed to vote on supplementary lists, that we answered helpless in the call center to those who told us that the mayors were having “a word” in the vicinity of the City Hall, casually, as in any Sunday. But all these problems, like countless others, are not solved by electronic voting. At least not by itself, if this is indeed the best option in this social and political space where we are now. Because electronic voting is also about this, not just about the will of the people. No matter how powerful the voice of the civil society, brought, here, in unison on a subject (rare occurrence), is, the electronic vote needs the state apparatus and political parties to reach a consensus. No matter how secure and fearless it may be, technology alone cannot solve this problem.

But what’s frustrating is this focus on a singular issue. For several months, in Civic Labs, where we bring together all the relevant stakeholders on one topic or another we have looked at elections, legislation, voting and the entire ecosystem of factors and procedures around exercising the right to vote. And we’re not done. The vote is not just about the 3 or 1 minute you spend in the booth, you and your voting stamp. It’s about commissions, about observation, about delegates, about bureaucracy, about lists, about sections, about the coordinating institutions of the process, about NGOs and the press, about a lot of human error that happens from the moment the voter enters the door of the polling center until he or she leaves with or without an expressed opinion. Everywhere there are shortcomings or problems, or places where it can be done better or more digitally. Solutions that can be implemented regardless of the degree of consensus sometimes and that can help ensure the right to vote for more people within the same 14-hour interval.

So, our answer to the electronic vote is: yes, it may be a good solution, but let’s find out together if it’s the only solution or if we can actually do more than that. We have a website where we invite you to send us your opinions on the subject, and we are always online at contact@code4.ro. We will also have open meetings, focus groups and consultations on the validation of the issues related to the electoral ecosystem and incubation of digital solutions where they have both purpose and chances of success and we invite you to take part in them.

Let’s not waste this energy and optimism in internet wars on social media, but instead use it thoughtfully, do research, understand where others have failed or were successful and see if their implementation models would work in our case, to listen to electoral experts, IT security experts, software architecture experts and then raise the lion cub in our arms, above our heads. After we are sure.