Emerging technologies

Which countries have conducted online elections, and have they worked?

Michelle Abad

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Which countries have conducted online elections, and have they worked?


Most Filipinos abroad will vote online in 2025, the Comelec announces. Here are some countries that have conducted internet voting, and what their experiences were.

Most overseas Filipinos will cast their votes via the internet in 2025, as the Commission on Elections (Comelec) announced on Tuesday, April 2, that online voting will be the primary mode of casting ballots overseas in the next midterm elections.

Since overseas elections began in 2004, Filipinos abroad have been using two modes of voting: personal, where they show up to cast votes at their local embassy or consulate, and postal, where they are mailed ballots to fill up and mail back to the embassy, consulate, or designated voting center.

In the coming midterm elections, the Comelec plans to use those two modes in just around 17 posts across a dozen countries, particularly those with internet restrictions. 

In conducting online voting, the Comelec looks to save money in sending out voting machines overseas, and hopes to increase voter turnout, after the 2022 elections saw a dismal 38% turnout abroad, despite being the highest in history.

In 2022, overseas Filipinos reported disenfranchisement, delayed voting in some countries, and receiving double ballots in the mail, which made it difficult for some to cast their votes during the month-long voting period.

With just roughly a year away from the election, the Comelec is still looking for a provider of its online voting technology. Details of the exact technology have yet to be disclosed, but Comelec spokesman Rex Laudiangco said the system being procured has authentication and enrollment features, and votes “will remain secure and confidential.”

What other countries have tried online voting, and how secure have these elections been? Here are three case studies.


Estonia claims to be the first country in the world to implement internet voting for the entire electorate for its national election, beginning in 2005.

Their online voting system is called i-Voting. Estonian voters are required to have a mobile-ID, or an ID-card, as well as a computer that has the software required to use the card and their PIN codes.

According to the e-Estonia platform run by Estonia’s Information System Authorty, when Estonians cast their votes online, their digital ballots are saved in an encrypted container file. They are then sent to the State Electoral Office’s server, where an electoral committee counts the anonymous votes. The system was developed to ensure voter eligibility first before their digital signatures are removed to uphold confidentiality.

Some security measures Estonia implements are certificates issued for every step of the vote counting process that can be audited later on, as well as the right of every voter to change his or her vote until the end of the voting period.

Which countries have conducted online elections, and have they worked?

Confidence in the electronic mode grew among Estonians across the years. From just 2% casting votes via the internet in 2005, over 50% of Estonia’s voters voted online in 2023.

Estonia has been seen as leading globally in digitizing its governance processes. Still, the Innovation in Politics Institute warned of possible challenges Estonia should be vigilant against, such as bad actors in cybersecurity.

Ontario, Canada

Canadian province Ontario has been allowing internet voting for around two decades in local elections.

Informational videos from the city of Markham and the township of Centre Wellington describe similar processes. Voters are mailed a “Voting PIN” and instructions on when and how to vote. Each municipality has its own web address for voting where voters choose their candidates in their digital ballots.

After voting, ballots go to a “secure digital ballot box” and are officially submitted. Voters can verify if their votes are correct by downloading an app that can scan a QR code that will show the voter’s selections. If they see any candidates they did not intend to vote for, there is an option to tap “Not my selections,” and contact the municipality.

The QR code can only be scanned by the Scytl Verify app, and not by generic QR scanners. However, verifying votes via the app is not required for a vote to be counted.

Having online voting as an option did not necessarily mean a higher turnout. Using Ontario data, a May 2018 article published online by the Cambridge University Press found that while internet voting could increase voter turnout by 3.5% percentage points – one of the reasons possibly being reduced costs – the option was still “unlikely to solve the low turnout crisis, and [implies] that cost arguments do not fully account for recent turnout declines.”

A CBC News analysis similarly found that the availability of the online option did not mean a consistently high turnout. In the October 2022 election, nearly 4 million people were registered to vote online, but the majority did not vote at all. 

Digital woes also plagued the local elections in Ontario. Globalnews.ca reported in October 2018 that Dominion Voting Systems, which provides the election tabulation software in Canada, blamed a Toronto service provider for overloading online voting traffic in 51 Ontario municipalities, causing many cities and towns to extend their voting systems. 

However, Dominion said in a statement that the load issue did not compromise the system’s integrity and security.

New South Wales, Australia

Australian state New South Wales (NSW) used an internet voting system called iVote from 2011 to 2021, particularly for voters with disabilities, as well as those who live in remote areas. 

Eligible voters could either cast their votes online or via telephone. Voting is compulsory for all Australians above 18, unless they have a valid reason why they can’t.

Votes cast via iVote increased significantly from 2011 to 2015 – the highest among people with disabilities, from 1,296 votes in 2011 to 12,714 in 2015. This represented an 881% increase.

INCREASED VOTES. This table from Roger WIlkins, whom the NSW Electoral Commission engaged to undertake an inquiry about the iVote system, shows the increase of votes cast from iVote’s first year until 2015. Screenshot from Wilkins’ report

Years before iVote was discontinued, researchers J. Alex Halderman and Vanessa Teague from the University of Michigan and the University of Melbourne respectively reported “severe vulnerabilities” in the system in an April 2015 report.

These vulnerabilities, the researchers found in an independent security analysis, “could be leveraged to manipulate votes, violate ballot privacy, and subvert the verification mechanism.”

Some vulnerabilities included an insecure external server that exposed some votes, and vote verification protocols that were “susceptible to manipulation.” They said that at least one parliamentary seat was decided by a margin significantly smaller than the number of votes taken while the system was vulnerable.

Despite these findings, NSW and some advocates continued to believe in iVote. Non-profit Vision Australia, in a submission to parliament in June 2017, said that the iVote system was the “current best practice in accessible, secret, independent, and verifiable voting for the blindness and low vision community.”

In December 2021, iVote crashed, causing the election commission to ask the Supreme Court to scrap results in some local areas, which the court approved in March 2022. Affected voters had to cast their votes again.

The same month, the NSW Electoral Commissioner decided iVote would no longer be used in the March 2023 state election, as the software at the time was being phased out, and the commissioner “was not confident an updated system adapted for elections in NSW would be ready in time.”

The commission committed to exploring new technologies that could replace iVote. – Rappler.com

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Michelle Abad

Michelle Abad is a multimedia reporter at Rappler. She covers the rights of women and children, migrant Filipinos, and labor.