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E-voting comes of age in Italy with Venice independence referendum

Philip Willan | March 27, 2014
A successful online poll to measure support for the independence of Italy's northeastern Veneto region has demonstrated the sophistication of the area's IT businesses and the maturity of e-voting technology, according to the man who organized the unofficial referendum.

Voters received a unique ID number through the post, enabling them to cast their ballot online, digitize their referendum choice on the phone, or — in the case of the elderly or those without a PC — go to polling stations to receive assistance in casting their online ballot from local volunteers.

"There was a high level of voting using smartphones and tablets, around 35 percent, while only about 5 percent made use of the telephone vote," Busato said.

Busato insists that scrupulous measures were taken to avoid fraud and the process was overseen by several dozen independent observers, headed by an ex-ambassador from the Republic of Georgia.

The general thrust of Busato's referendum was confirmed by an opinion poll conducted at around the same time and published Tuesday by La Repubblica newspaper. The Demos poll found around half of those questioned had voted in the referendum or intended to do so and 80 percent of them supported the idea of independence for the Veneto region.

The surprising success of the poll has generated expressions of interest from three other Italian regions — Friuli, Sardinia and Sicily — and from another European region interested in pursuing a campaign for independence, Busato said. "It's our intention to assist European regions that want to mobilize for independence," he said.

Busato, who is owner and CEO of an IT company called Digitnut Srl, said Repubblica's findings confirmed the validity of his own numbers. "The results show that online voting is fit for purpose and could be used for other referendums and consultations of other kinds as well," he said. The inventors of the "ballot" look set to continue their role as pioneers of the instruments of democracy. Whether they will achieve independence from Italy is another matter.


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