Estonia to Vote by Cell Phone in 2011

While the United States can't even get its act together in terms of electronic voting machines, which seemingly flip votes, or don't record votes, or any number of myriad bugs, the country of Estonia has decided it's time to enter a truly digital voting age.

Actually, in terms of Estonia, they are just expanding their entry into the digital voting age: last year they could vote in the parliamentary elections via the Internet.

Yet as accusations and rumor swirl in the U.S. over hacking of electronic voting machines, how will Estonia prevent such problems? Well, according to Raul Kaidro, spokesman of the SK Certification Center, the system has already been thoroughly tested, and requires voters to obtain a chip for their cell phone. The free chip will verify the voter's ID and authorize participation in the election.

Unless some other country beats them to the punch, Estonia will be the first mobile phone-enabled election. Kaidro added, however, that neighbors Finland and Sweden possess the software and technical capabilities to conduct a similar election.

While Estonia has said the Internet voting system in 2007 proved secure, it's hard to imagine such a system working in the U.S. without multiple legal challenges and lawsuits.

The U.S. continues to trail in such forward-looking initiatives. While obviously hacking and security is a concern, the ability to vote via cell phone or the Internet will increase voter turnout and decrease the number of people who have to wait in long, hours-long lines.

Update: I received a clarification email from Kaidro. Rather than an additional chip, all that's needed is a special SIM card which contains the secret keys as defined in PKI context and a special application to drive the process. The SIM is compatible with all cell phones manufactured since the year 2000.