I am Oleksandr Kliuzhev, representative of Civil Network OPORA. It is an honour for me to be here today. Our organization carries out independent monitoring of election process, prepares draftlaws, implements programs in the field of open election data, and protects voting rights, etc.
During this discussion, I would like to put a few questions that are extremely important today.
The first question. Do the modern societies need to change the approaches to elections or modify traditional forms of voting? The answer is complex. On the one hand, the number of cases related to use of technologies in elections is increasing, and society is always changing. On the other hand, the most technologically advanced countries keep traditional approaches to elections. They are careful with technological ambitions. In my opinion, modern societies rather intend to transform political institutes, which were created as a result of elections. They do not seek for changing approaches to the elections itself. Fatigue from political institutions and political practices led to unexpected results of elections in the United States, Italy, Germany, and others. However, such results are not tiredness of the elections itself. In this regard, there is no evidence that technologies will increase the interest of citizens in elections. It is possible to strengthen such interest only by increasing the effectiveness of political institutions and public officials.
The second question. How to set a priority on changes in election process under the conditions of limited resources for their implementation? I’ll provide an example from Ukrainian discussions.
Here is the choice: costs for providing people with disabilities with an access to premises of polling stations or expenses on modern initiative of CEC related to introduction of a system of automatic formation of protocols on vote counting? If the government believes that improving infrastructure for people with disabilities is a problem, is it possible to ensure safe and effective use of new technologies at all?
In Ukraine, supporters of "modernization" via introduction of new technologies usually put a blind eye to the lack of stable and independent election management authorities. Such bodies should implement the offered changes. During the last 4 years, the composition of the members of the Central Election Commission has not been changed in Ukraine. Its term of powers expired in 2014. Introduction of new technologies by ineffective body can lead to aggravation, not to improvement of the conditions for conducting elections. Moreover, it can disturb confidence to voting results.
I will try to put the question even more acute.
Should we really intensify the dialogue on "modernization" of elections, meanwhile basic voting rights are not ensured? Do new technologies really matter to those voters, whose right are still not recognized by the state?
It was stated about the need for a balance between the demands of “modernization" of the elections and identification of risks related to different innovations. Let's make it clear. When it comes about introduction of technologies as an autonomous goal, there is a lot of populism in modernization of elections. If we fight against populism of politicians, we must evaluate emotional and chaotic attempts to change the approaches to holding elections.
Summing up, I would like to refer to security of using technologies in election process. I believe that security of technology cannot be separated from similar issues in other fields of life. For example, Ukrainian society passively reacts to violations of standards of government data security. In fact, people accept the private sector's irresponsibility in the field of automated systems, privacy rights and personal data protection policy. It's naive to think that it is possible to create safe vacuum for technologies in elections. That is why, it is important to have a dialogue on the problems related to use of technologies in various fields of society: in business activities, social and medical areas, and law enforcement operation. If society has critical understanding of the importance of technology security, there will be a basis for its effective implementation in elections.
Thus, we have to discuss changes in approaches to election process in the context of transformation of the society itself. Anyway, we must learn how to set priorities and evaluate institutional capacity to implement changes.