Online Voting Powers Social Elections in Germany

Social elections in Germany used online voting for the first time

Germany – June 12, 2023 – Smartmatic’s election technology played a pivotal role in Germany’s Social Elections held April 11 to May 31. Working with its technology partner, regio iT, the UK-based company delivered online voting for remote participation. Smartmatic also provided the country’s second largest health insurance company, Barmer, with centralized electronic counting to process paper ballots cast via post.

In Germany, social elections are held every six years, allowing eligible voters to choose the self-governance council who oversee health and pension insurance funds. With an electorate of approximately 52 million eligible voters, these elections rank as Germany’s third largest, following the European Parliament and German federal elections.

Nearly 22.3 million voters were eligible to participate online using Smartmatic’s online voting system, TIVI. These voters also had the option to cast traditional postal ballots. Online voting served to elect representatives for any five of the main health insurance companies (TK, Barmer, DAK-Gesundheit, KKH and hkk). The cutting-edge digital voting system was available during a 51-day voting period.

“We are thrilled to see that this first use of online voting in Germany’s social elections ran smoothly,” remarked Matthijs Schippers, Director for Smartmatic. “Voters were able to cast a digital ballot in a matter of minutes from anywhere and at any time. The public will be able to verify the online voting from end to end to ensure its accuracy and validity. This election indicates that online voting is undeniably part of the future of elections.”

For health insurance company Barmer, Smartmatic deployed a central electronic counting solution for processing traditional postal ballots. Smartmatic was responsible for receiving and sorting the ballot envelopes, and after close of polls, efficiently opening and extracting them, and then electronically counting ballots and consolidating results. Twenty high-speed optical ballot scanners processed over 1.4 million postal ballots.

According to data collected by the authorities responsible for overseeing federal-level elections in Germany (Bunderswahlleiter), the share of absentee ballots cast by post has increased from 4.9% in 1957 to 28.6% in 2017. Amidst the coronavirus pandemic, this number reached a staggering 47.3% in 2021. Providing an online voting alternative was, therefore, a logical step.

“We applaud German authorities for taking the initiative to offer citizens more channels to participate in democracy. Statistics show clearly that voters want a variety of options to cast their ballots. We hope to continue working to expand the use of this technology and make voting even more convenient, secure and verifiable,” added Schippers.

TIVI has been successfully used for online votes in Norway, the United States, Canada, among other countries.