Registering for elections becomes easier

SLOVAKS living abroad willing to participate in the March 5 general election can now use a simpler way to register for the absentee ballot.

Illustrative stock photoIllustrative stock photo (Source: Sme)

The election law states that voters who will not be present in Slovakia on the day of the election and who wish to cast a ballot must provide notification of that fact at least 50 days before the vote, which falls on January 15 this year.

Under the current rules, voters can send a letter or an email application to the municipal authority (if they have a permanent residence in Slovakia) or to the Interior Ministry (in case they do not have a permanent residence in Slovakia).

To make it easier for them, a group of people from the initiative launched the website which helps voters to register for the vote quickly and in only a few steps. The Slovak Spectator spoke with programmer Ján Suchal about the project and its aims.

The Slovak Spectator (TSS): What was the main reason for launching the project?

Ján Suchal (JS): The idea originated at our platform. We liked it as an idea since we know that people don’t like reading the instructions on ministries’ and authorities’ websites, but need to be “led by the hand”.

TSS: Where did you get the inspiration for such a project?

JS: I think no big inspiration was needed. It is quite a straightforward way from idea to realisation.

TSS: How does the system work? How is the connection with authorities secured?

JS: The application will ask you for necessary information (either you are asking for voting by mail or the absentee ballot) and then generate the necessary application which you then send to the authority. You also have a pre-prepared template email. All information is processed only within a user’s web browser and no personal data is sent via any third party. The source file is freely accessible, so if somebody doesn’t believe us, he/she can check it on their own. We have a database of emails to necessary authorities, with some being checked and the others not. Thus we call on people to ask the authorities to confirm they received the application. It is an ordinary practice.

TSS: What is the main aim of this initiative?

JS: We, the initiative, liked the idea because it connects several things we want to point at. First, that the state IT should be focused more on citizens and that neither rocket science nor millions of euros are needed to do so. The officials do not understand this as they do not see any added value in it. We have the numbers and we can see it is the other way round. People, who did not want to vote, now want to and it is thanks to this application. Second, it becomes apparent there is a group of people who want to help the state and its people. Third, the way this project was created could serve as an example of how the state IT can work: agilely, transparently and absolutely openly.

TSS: How many people have already used the system and from which countries?

JS: The statistics show only a few thousand, which is a great number regarding the fact that about 8,000 people from abroad use to attend the elections. Most come from the Czech Republic, the United Kingdom, Germany, the United States, Austria, Switzerland, Ireland, Belgium and the Netherlands.

TSS: What do you think about the claims of the Slovak Interior Ministry that it would be difficult to launch online elections?

JS: This discussion is going on around the globe, and also at our platform. It is really not as easy as it seems and the claim that “Estonians are doing it” does not mean that also we should do it. The opinions are different, but we also want it as our aim. The questions about security and abuse do not seem to be sufficiently technologically solved.

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