Voter turnout is in free-fall across Europe. From the 1970s to the 2010s, participation in national elections has dropped from 93% to 75% in Italy, from 90% to 71% in Germany, from 81% to 55% in France, and from 77% to 68% in Spain.

Young people in particular are less likely to vote than any other demographic. Despite this, 42% of young Europeans (15-24) say they have expressed political opinions online (some of them hopefully on Debating Europe!), versus an average of 28% for all age groups. Might young people be more likely to vote if it could be done safely and conveniently online?

E-voting is short for “electronic voting”, and it means using machines to count votes instead of the traditional paper ballots. It can also be done remotely, where it is often known as “online voting”, “internet voting”, or simply “remote e-voting”. For this debate, we will mostly be talking about remote e-voting when we use the term “e-vote”.

Estonia is a pioneer when it comes to e-voting. In the 2015 Estonian Parliamentary elections, 31% of voters took part via e-voting, versus a 64% turnout overall. The 2015 turnout level was roughly the same as the previous elections in 2011, but the proportion of people e-voting has increased from 24% in 2011.

Curious to know more about e-voting? We’ve put together some facts and figures about online and electronic voting in the infographic below (click for a bigger version).


As part of our Debating Europe Schools series, we’ve been taking questions from students from across Europe to policy-makers and experts for them to answer. For today’s debate, we had a question sent in from students from the Debating Society of St. George’s International School, Luxembourg.

One of the students from the St. George’s International School in Luxembourg asked about the safety of e-voting. What can be done to prevent fraud when votes are counted electronically? We put this question to David Bismark, an expert on e-voting and voting system designer from Sweden.

Next, we had a comment sent in by Kiril, who hopes that e-voting will lead to more direct democracy in Europe. Would David Bismark agree?

Would you be more likely to vote if you could do it online? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

IMAGE CREDITS: CC / Flickr – Justgrimes

177 comments Post a commentcomment

    • avatar

      Do you use online banking?

  1. avatar
    Andreas Siantos

    The problem is not the process of voting. It’s the lack of non-corrupted/non-power and money-hungry candidates. When every party has failed you again and again, it’s easy to say “why should I even bother?”

  2. avatar
    Nando Aidos

    Lack of voter turnout is NOT a technology problem!
    Let us not lose sight of the fundamental reasons why people stay home on voting day. Let us not pretend that the technology is going to be the solution.
    The solution is NOT more technology. The problem is much deeper than technology can handle. The problem to be solved is the dis-functionality of our political systems, the hijacking of our political lives by a distorted political system. That is what needs to be fixed. Voter turnout will respond positively to these serious changes, internet or not.

  3. avatar
    Ivan Burrows


    Of course it won’t, its the content that matters not the method.

    As long as the main question is ignored people will be indifferent to voting. ‘Are we a self governing people or not’?

    Take a look at the turnout for the Scottish referendum and you will find as soon as people are asked the question they will turnout & vote.

    The same will apply when the whole of Great Britain votes in our EU referendum, turnout will be unprecedented & then we will leave.

  4. avatar
    Su La

    No, as faces never change and no new politicians coming to the field with new perspective.. so why I should vote when I know already who will win? :)

  5. avatar
    Artur Pereira

    No ! I don’t vote because I don’t agree with what is going on in my Country, (Portugal,” Portugadesh “).

  6. avatar
    Ivaylo Ivanov

    I have never skipped election days, but it would be fantastic, if i can do that regardless of where i am in this very moment.

  7. avatar

    I have strong doubts that so called “Online” is a fair reality projection, especially when something like the Foundation of Democracy in magnitude is at stake. After all, Joseph V. Stalin make it pretty clear :”- It doesn’t matter how the votes are cast, but how they’re counted.”

    • avatar
      catherine benning

      I agree in principle with Ironworker. And all the others who have cynism about how and in what way it would be used. The peron above who wrote of the right to a secret ballow is spot on. And no one does have a right to know how any individual votes or indeed why they do or do not.

      However, in my country, they already know how you vote as you are sent a ballot card, on that card is a number. That number is then checked as you hand in your card at the polling station. And, the paper they give you has a code for who you are.

      I too doubted this could be so, until on the last vote I took I asked the ajudicator if they can check on how you vote. He waffled and tried to slide around it, but, confessed they did. And his excuse was, because it is an offence to damamge a ballot paper. Oh, really!

      So, in the UK the vote is not secret. However, what worries me far more is the count and how they fix the numbers. I believe strongly this was done in Scotland at the referendum asking if they wanted to remain united. It was so very obvious it was a fix. But the people are going to put their cross in the box of the SNP who is wanting another ballot. So, that shows us all what they really backed as a nation.

      Then of course it has been openly known for years the rigging goes on in the USA. Here is a little reminder of how it’s done.

      And more.

    • avatar
      Tarquin Farquhar

      @Catherine Benning
      Your 3rd paragraph was BRILLIANT. I was unaware that a secret ballot is in fact NOT a secret-ballot in the UK.


  8. avatar
    Mugur Cristian

    YES, this is the future of voting and not only every 5 years for European Parlament, but we will be able to vote electronically for every law, every decsision European institution will take. There will be be no need for someone to vote for us in EP as we can do it from our personal phone or PC. EP will be for debates but the final vote should belong to citizens.

  9. avatar
    Irene Constantinou

    I don’t think e-voting will ever be safe!! Convenient probably but it takes away some of its interest…..

  10. avatar

    The fact that I do not vote anymore has nothing to do with material considerations as for how to vote, it is for different motives.

    Though, if I had to vote, I would not trust Internet as a place as secure as a pooling both to vote…

  11. avatar
    Angelo Davaris

    yes, we do not need to pay expensive legislators. We can do it ourselves, and then have true democracy like in Athens, (ancient)

  12. avatar
    Paul Moldovan

    I vote every elections. But there are many people who are not in the original country at the date of the vote. They should be able to vote EASYLY.

  13. avatar
    Erich Scheffl

    Money don’t care about politics, and not about the people. If people would have an impact they would also vote more.

    • avatar
      EU reform- proactive

      Yes, it is outrageous to spend £220,000 on any President’s office renovation- in order to be closer to home! But, no worries- the politicians will call up the European Programme for Critical Infrastructure Protection (EPCIP)- & it will be rubber-stamped (if it causes too much embarrassment) by the choir of 751! Is such lust & self indulgence by an emperor being justified for being THE emperor- like in Roman times? The rise & fall of ……..?

      Poor Africa has similar and ongoing problems as well: SA’s President J. Zuma’s “private residence” was recently “upgraded” (“unknown to him”) to the tune of ‘only’ ~18mio Euro & declared a “National Key point”- to stop criticism & impeachment! Is that one reason why so many Africans flee to Europe? Unknowingly to be confronted with similar problems. Where is this elusive land of justice & ethics- where we Europeans can flee to?

      Electronic voting & governance could assist greatly to reduce such cost in future! He could even work from his kitchen table at home! He was surely advised to rather stick to 6 glasses of water/day (not whisky) to preserve his liver & kidney and be able to rule the northern hemisphere a bit longer! Ouch, this poor and sick man is really starting to cost us now- isn’t it?

  14. avatar
    EU reform- proactive

    YES to bits & bytes! NO to bits of paper! Think green, save costs, time & evolve!

    A challenge to all IT whiz kids- hurry! “Assuming” the process has reached final technical maturity (ease of use, access, fool & total tamper proof- ‘benefit of doubt’) plus has further passed & been accepted by each Members Constitutional Court as 100% legal- IT IS A GREAT IDEA!

    The Amsterdam Treaty limits the size of the European Parliament to 700 members- we have already 751. A great chance to revolutionize the whole EU system and REDUCE & RECALL ALL to their home base!

    Direct democracy- with total electronic governance & citizen participation!

    Sorry Brussels- that’s your END! Saving costs, freeing up buildings, saving energy, travel & marriages- as a result increase our birthrate too!

    So much to gain so little to loose!

  15. avatar
    Knut Arne Langås

    No, I will vote nevertheless! I’m not sure this will be sure enough either. It had some problematic aspects too!

  16. avatar
    Peter Redondeiro

    Well that could be a start. It is simply stupid that in the 21st century people have to phisicaly go to the poles, just to vote and waste an hour or so waitning on the line. internet people, is a wonderful invention.

  17. avatar
    Maria Krasteva

    Yes, a thousand times over. The new generation lives online – they’d care much more and vote in much larger numbers, if it could be done online.

  18. avatar
    Andrew Lally

    it should be facilitated, but voting should be an obligatory citizen’s duty, given the benefits citizens derive from being part of that entity

  19. avatar
    Mathew Sandoval

    Security would be the greater question. Online voting may be more advantageous in a public setting; the bank, library, school, or municipal offices.

  20. avatar
    JP Faure

    Absolutely! I’m actually wondering why we don’t have that yet! Estonia has it. Russia too, btw.

    • avatar

      Because Russia has it, doesn’t make it by default a “Democratic Nation”.

  21. avatar
    eusebio manuel vestias pecurto

    Yes I could vote via Internet des there were more social justice with the europe workers in parts of Europe

  22. avatar
    Ciobîcă Ovidiu

    Online voting is not secret, and most people in Europe care more about than than personal comfort.I am one of them.

  23. avatar
    Стоян Киров

    In my opinion , this will be the best way to voting for one or another party.We`re supposed to live in a democractic society which means , that everyone can choose the way to vote.Apart from that there are also lots of illiterate people , like the ones from the minorities , who simply cannot write and speak properly in the official language for the country , so they should not be allowed to vote.

    • avatar
      EU reform- proactive

      @Стоян Киров

      ….“lots of illiterate people”…? EU citizens within the EU- where?

      Education is a process- spanning from cradle to grave! Have you ever heard:
      If you snooze you loose? Tough luck Стоян, this “minority” has chosen to be losers!

  24. avatar
    Tony Kunnari

    Of course I would. As a matter a fact I want a feature i.e. a software through which I am able to transfer my vote in real-time from a candidate to another whenever I feel like it. There would be a list of candidates who are arranged by votes they hold. Top 20% of the candidates are electedly inside while the rest 80% are meanwhile in a ‘stand-by’ mode doing other things. Whenever a candidate drops below 20%, this candidate goes into stand-by mode and the candidates who got more votes go upward. Whenever a candidate goes into amongst 20%, this is elected into office and starts to work immediately. This is all done in real-time through an application which is open and downloadable by legal citizens.

  25. avatar
    Ivan Burrows


    Of course not, its content that counts, not method.

    Until the peoples of Europe are asked if they want the EU the turnout will continue to fall.

    Now Juncker has been handed the EU presidency like a modern day Caesar things can only get worse, much worse.

    Rule without consent is a dictatorship, not a democracy.

    • avatar
      EU reform- proactive

      surely, the EP choir expressed their fear from such “shock and awe” mainly being just a catastrophic loss of their cushy 5 year job guarantee- not a genuine concern for the democratic deficit. A less than 50% overall participation in such important election has to qualify as “invalid” & a signal for a call back to the drawing board.

  26. avatar
    Bertrand Mercadier

    Internet has proven to be a wonderful tool for expression. We just have to take a look at the arab spring for example!
    So to my mind YES, using internet for voting could lead to a huge bump in participation. It could also be the way to implement more referendums, to have more direct democracy.
    However, we have to consider that the success of this method could not last: allowing people to vote through internet might just have be successful as it would be new, fashionable, one step in the future widely mediatized. But would the high participation expected endure?
    So what exactly can we do to lead more people to express themselves? Or, we could turn the question otherwise: why is there such a drop in participation of our national election? That is for sure the question that all our political leaders should ask themselves.

  27. avatar
    Nikolas Kalaitzidis

    shame on all of us and the alleged united europe which is nothing more yet than a “multinationalistic” beureocracy.

  28. avatar
    Nando Aidos

    Warning – poor voter turnout is not a “media” problem. It is a “political system credibility” problem! And that is what needs to be fixed first.

  29. avatar

    Warning – poor voter turnout is not a “media” problem. It is a “political system credibility” problem! And that is what needs to be fixed first.

  30. avatar
    Martin Unterholzner

    I personally will vote regardless of the technical details about the voting method. However, my impression is that the number of people who are interested in politics and who keep themselves informed is decreasing. Thus: Why should one vote if one is not interested or does not know what is at stake?
    I think a solution could be to involve the people more and more often. It is not enough to make them vote once every 4-5 years about PEOPLE. We should go towards a more direct democracy like in Switzerland. There voters not only vote on PEOPLE, but much more often they vote about concrete ISSUES, such as “should there be a minimum wage?”. Living in Switzerland, I have seen profound political discussions between citizens and more space for politics in mass media.

  31. avatar

    I guess it depends on the current voting system in the country where you live now. I would definitely be much more likely if I could do it online, especially since I do travel a lot and voting outside your voting precinct where I’m at is not just a nightmare when allowed (often it is not, depending on subject) but also frowned upon and very limited in general due to risk of fraud.

  32. avatar

    we are in 2015,we DO have the technology,so,why we still remain in this old and malfunctioning voting system?it is time to move forward.governements all around (so called) progressive europe,should turn to an ”e-voting”,transparrent and fully democratic system.

  33. avatar
    Matej Zaggy Zagorc

    It shouldn’t be a burden to anyone to go vote in the traditional way. Maybe, just maybe, if candidates were to actually deserve votes, more people would attend voting?

  34. avatar

    Online voting seems like a logical step forward though I fear it might create an even more blasé attitude towards voting than the current system for certain people. Potentially for though who don’t really care about their vote an “I have no idea what I’m doing, oh they have the nicest logo, who cares” approach may be taken.

    Also the internet tends to be ripe for abuse and misuse by those looking to subvert other people’s votes and break the system. Whether there could be sufficient safeguards in place to avoid fraud and such would be a big question.

    Lastly, poor voter turn out tends to be due to lack of motivation or lack of caring about the system, as opposed to the minor inconvenience of doing it. People who aren’t motivated by the politics will continue to not want to vote. People who don’t care will either continue to not vote or simply throw their vote at whoever asks them first to get it out of the way.

  35. avatar
    Marçal Puigdefàbregas

    Maybe not voting in national and European polls when deciding our governments, but it would be good if as citizens of Europe we are consulted on-line on several topics, sort of a survey or referendums.

  36. avatar
    Jonathan Gaskell

    I don’t like the idea of on-line voting due to the ease with which it could be hacked. Keep it on paper and you keep a paper trail.

  37. avatar
    Jaime Martins

    If you politicians, in fact working for the people, the people would vote. But what you do is for the interests of a few.

  38. avatar
    Ivan Burrows


    No, but add a vote on leaving the antidemocratic EU into our election and everyone would vote, then we would leave it.

  39. avatar
    Vinko Rajic

    YES ! We should vote online . All EU citizens should have internet ID that could be used for voting and other services online . EU should have a news agency similar to BBC , search engine and mail service similar to Google and EU citizens could use it with their EU internet ID .

    • avatar

      I share the same opinion. However privacy should be carfully managed!

  40. avatar
    Roberto López Gallardo

    Well pretty much makes sense as there is an increasing feeling of non-democracy though a corporativistic ruling elite thats cares nothing about people. This will change soon hopefully…

  41. avatar
    Stelios Peppas

    voting is the ultimate right of western democracy, it is shameful that in most of the countries people avoid voting. I believe that we should return to a more representative democracy, even by fining and punishing people that they don’t vote.

  42. avatar

    I vote anyway, but voting online would be a great evolution of the political system but why stop there, why not be able to text vote?

  43. avatar
    Sam Durado

    Oh as if people are allowed to vote to have their say in the EU parliament represented? duh Brussels? no I don’t think so! unless they change the undemocratic system of the EU government! :P

  44. avatar
    Lyubomir Sirkov

    Voting “online” makes the whole process less transparent – and less open to observation by the ordinary citizen.

  45. avatar
    Laurinda Seabra

    No. Computer programs created by humans with ulterior motives? No thanks …On the other hand what’s the use of any vote if the “MARKETS” dictate to elected governments as just happened in Greece? irrespective of what the electorate mandated the government to do?

    Rather create a voting system to rid the world of the corruptible system that are the so called MARKETS. who are there to protect minority interests instead of the greater good.

  46. avatar
    Vesselin Alexiev

    I can imagine a manager calling his workers to his office one by one, and having them vote in front of him/her. I think in the future voting will happen through the internet, but today I think it’s too dangerous

  47. avatar
    Gio Cruz

    Yes! spain and Portugal have special ID cards that you can use to identify yourself online. Holland has DigiD. Why cant we just have these systems as a second way of voting?

  48. avatar
    Gio Cruz

    Voting online doesnt have to be dangerous. If i can do my tax declarations online, see my medical history, update my car registration, see my traffic fines, etc… Why cant i just also vote online?

  49. avatar
    Nando Aidos

    Question – young people do not vote because it is not online? Because they cannot do it at the click of a button? Or because the whole fraudulent political scenario is of no interest to young people? Or because young people do not feel represented by stodgy politicians in out of date ties?

  50. avatar

    Question – young people do not vote because it is not online? Because they cannot do it at the click of a button? Or because the whole fraudulent political scenario is of no interest to young people? Or because young people do not feel represented by stodgy politicians in out of date ties and expensive cars?
    This question is much more pertinent!

  51. avatar
    Fernando De Rojas Parets

    Yes, of course but two conditions should be respected; that process to access to e-vote could be simple and without bureaucracy, and that the resolts of our votes would be decissive in the EU government, because today Europe Union is not a democratic system.

  52. avatar
    Ivan Burrows


    It would mean more people registering their protest against the antidemocratic EU so yes.

  53. avatar
    Tony Kunnari

    Voting system where your single vote is only passed on to a single entity at a time, whenever you deem to pass it, would be open to you and anonymity-guaranteed way for others to see the state of vote share in real-time and affect it likewise.

  54. avatar
    Tony Kunnari

    We could actually go further than that too; real-time law / act voting system. Who needs a government of the few / majority to decide what to do when we are able to simply surpass and govern everything ourselves as a part of the society structure and as a whole through the capabilities of a digital environment in relation with our genetic and social environments?

  55. avatar
    Rui Duarte

    The reasons why people do not vote for EU election has nothing to do with «how easy it is to vote«: it has to do with the discredit of european institutions and the added-value they can see «europe».

  56. avatar
    Higaara Nakamura

    Without any doubt, at least they would be able to vote in none of the parties without too much trouble.

  57. avatar
    Higaara Nakamura

    Without any doubt, at least they would be able to vote in none of the parties without too much trouble.

  58. avatar
    Jan Peter Schoffer Petricek

    if it is too demanding for you to walk once every 4 years a few metres to the polling station to exercise your voting right, then…then it is perhaps better you don’t vote at all. One should not abett to overly comodity and laziness.

  59. avatar
    Georgi Tashev

    We have no government.
    What wonder ….
    Separately that Europe tells us that it considers as Europeans but to taxpayers …..

    But that Europe wants you . Boyko bow to Brussels. Where the hell is the únion’ SHAME ON EU TO IGNORE 9 MILLION Bulgarians.

  60. avatar
    Hanna Clairière

    Most likely yes, but I always vote when possible in any case.

  61. avatar
    Bart Van Damme

    We are one of the few “civilized” countries where voting is still mandatory. Totally ridiculous, of course, and merely intended to harvest votes from those who are not interested in politics and who will vote on the traditional parties because their families have always done so.

    That being said, even if voting were to be optional, I would still go vote (online or not). Even if only to donate my vote to the smaller parties, the rebellious parties, the unconventional parties, anything that will make life more difficult for the traditional big power parties.

  62. avatar

    I always vote if I only can. I am an expat who have lived in 4 different countries already. During the last two years I love only 30 minutes by bus from country consulate so participation in elections was easy but several times I couldn’t vote because of 500 km distance to the closest poll. I know that I could vote anyway using a traditional mail but providing a permanent address was impossible at the moment. So yes, e-voting would make voting much more convenient.

  63. avatar
    Andrej Němec

    Provided that the voting system is secured against cyber-attacks, it would be an excellent solution to raise participation

  64. avatar
    Afroditi Astreinidi-Blandin

    Yes. Not having any option to exercise my right and duty of voting for Greek elections without having to fly there since I am living abroad, e-elections woud help solving that.

  65. avatar
    Rudolf Vasky

    Pozor pozor!
    Dôležitý oznam pre všetkých Vasky Jugendov! Zdielajte všade po celom internete!
    Tento štvrtok 11.Februára o 17:00 hod. sa stretneme na Súmračnej ul.č.25 v Bratislave!
    hehehééééééééééé !!! Bude sranda a videjko aké ešte nebolo!
    Alojz Hlina – The krčmár tam má protest!
    Pozrite túto video pozvánku.

  66. avatar
    Wendy Harris

    We all know postal votes are rigged, how easy would it be to rig online voting? It’s much harder to rig votes made in person. Perhaps polling stations in supermarkets and other more convenient places might help. I disagree with mandatory voting unless there is a “none of the above” option. If “none of the above” get a sizeable majority then all the runner up parties should rethink their ideas and present something more palatable to the electorate.

  67. avatar

    yes, but hacking may be a issue.

  68. avatar
    Ricardo Loureiro

    Voting online is an interesting proposal, however, I believe it diminishes the significance of the act of voting.

    While it’s true, we need to increase engagement amongst younger audiences, the fact is that when you physically go to vote, you are committing to the ideals and visions of the candidate that you place your vote towards. Ultimately, you are steering the direction of your country, and of the European Union.

    One of the most important questions we must pose is, how will this affect the responsibility that it is to vote? Won’t the fact that we can vote by pressing just a few checkboxes impact and diminish our idea of it’s importance?

  69. avatar

    I think that first of all it should be a quality of the vote! I mean that it is useless to have more voting if the people that do it donnot really know why or for what they are doing it!

  70. avatar
    Wendy Harris

    No, this would make it much easier to rig. We see countless rigged opinion polls online and also rigged petitions. The Internet is even less safe than postal voting which is itself unsafe and should be scrapped. The only way to guarantee democracy is one person one vote made in person. The Muslim man with 5 wives effectively has 6 votes and this rips into the very fabric of democracy. Strengthen the voting system and close these loopholes!

  71. avatar
    Andrew Potts

    No if you are to lazy to go o a polling station you will be too lazy o go online. Plus many olde people don’t have the tech. Plus electronic systems are not transparent enough nor ever will be. The paper trail is just too valuable to keep the election honest.
    Plus would you trust any establishment not to cheat.

    • avatar
      Paulius Paždagis

      I am sorry, but every sentence in your comment is invalid.
      “if you are to lazy to go o a polling station you will be too lazy o go online” >>> …what? That makes sense how?
      “many olde people don’t have the tech” >>> Many older people do, also those who don’t have internet access at home will still be able to vote traditionally.
      “The paper trail is just too valuable to keep the election honest.” >>> Again – what…?
      “Plus would you trust any establishment not to cheat.”
      >>> You can falsify anything if you have the access.
      Think before you write anything please.

  72. avatar
    Bobi Dochev

    And how you going to guarantee the anonymous of voting then. Germany tried then stopped it!

  73. avatar
    Vytautas Vėžys

    I will stop voting the moment they will make it online. Why? Cause the moment you make it remote nobody could ensure “free will” and voting results could be fabricated too easy and without any chance to recheck them.

  74. avatar
    Nando Aidos

    More likely? No!
    I take voting seriously, not an event subject to conveniences!
    But as an absentee voter, yes, it is better than having to mail paper.

  75. avatar
    Andrew Potts

    You are wrong Paullus and understand nothing about the institutional mind and human nature. Government abounds with cover ups and cheating the examples are everywhere

  76. avatar
    Satsuma Angel

    Yes. I have never voted. Not because i do not want to, but because I have never lived in the country of my residence during voting periods.

  77. avatar

    We think that voting online is an advantage because some people have disabilities and so they cannot get to the voting station.

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