• Mon. Jan 17th, 2022

75 years of the Republic. What if there was electronic voting in the referendum?


Jun 2, 2021

The first universal suffrage in the history of Italy. The choice between Monarchy (which obtained 10,719,284 votes) and the Republic (12,717,923), with one and a half million blank ballots. A record turnout of 89%: in 1946 there were 28 million voters, and almost 25 million voters. For the first time, except for a dress rehearsal in some administrative offices a few months earlier, women who participated in greater numbers than men also voted. The results speak of an Italy divided in two, between a republican North and a monarchical South. But if it is true that the northern regions had voted mainly for the Republic, with a peak of 85% of the consensus in Trento, there was no lack of accusations and suspicions of fraud, and street clashes. What would have happened, we had fun thinking, if the vote had been electronic? It is not said, first of all, that the allegations of fraud would have been less heated: the distrust of electronic voting and some cases of hitches, suspicions and problems on the occasions in which it was applied, do not contribute, even in light of the technological advances today, to tip the scales towards machine-made scrutiny compared to that entirely managed by man. First of all, it is necessary to distinguish e-voting (which takes place in the polling station but on an electronic device) and i-voting, ie remote voting. As for the first system, it is widely tested in the world, but not for this reason protected from controversy. An example for all, the recent American presidential elections, which saw Trump’s supporters attack the companies that manufacture and manage the voting recorders, to the point of ending up in a libel suit – in Europe, far more apocalyptic than integrated. The only country that has really computerized the voting process is Estonia, where you need an identity card (digital or not) and its associated pin, a special “reader”, an internet connection and a PC, but there is no shortage of concerns about secrecy and anonymity. In 2009, the German Constitutional Court also intervened on the matter, declaring the unconstitutionality of all forms of electronic voting, because they would cause the public element of all the steps of an election to be lacking. The electoral process, on the other hand, must maintain its public and verifiable nature by the citizen without any specialized knowledge. The European Union has been struggling in the dilemma for years, and in 2017 it came to establish a series of essential requirements for electronic voting, 49 to be exact. Driven by the pandemic emergency, on March 26, 2020, it opted for the first time to use remote voting via the internet: 687 MEPs voted remotely in order to activate the urgent procedure with which to deal with the Covid-19 epidemic. But voting in parliament is a different kettle of fish than the direct expression of citizens’ preferences. In Canada, where internet voting has also been used successfully for almost twenty years at the local level, its use in federal elections is explicitly excluded. In Italy, attempts have been rather unsuccessful – the only case for all is Lombardy in the 2017, where in the face of an expenditure of 23 million euros in hardware and software, the hitches were endless. It took 13 hours to obtain data that with the hand counting would have required just 3. The biggest concrete step at the moment was the approval of the digital signature for national referendums and popular initiative laws, which will take place in starting from 2022 after setting up a special platform for the collection of signatures where you can identify yourself via Spid and electronic identity card. A small step, far from e-voting, but which opens the door to greater inclusiveness of direct democracy procedures. In short, we are not yet ready to know what it would be like if …