The COVID-19 crisis created a lot of challenge on many fronts. The European Parliament is not an exception. One of the challenges lies in enabling Members of the European Parliament to vote remotely while respecting law, rules of procedure, and democratic principles.
Current solution for remote voting
So far, bodies of the European Parliament vote remotely based on a decision of the Bureau of the European Parliament that made temporarily remote voting possible by e-mail. In a nutshell, the procedure entails filling in, printing, signing, scanning, and sending the ballot by e-mail. One could argue that the procedure is neither perfect nor convenient; however, provided that all results of all votes are published as roll call votes, the procedure makes it possible for each Member of the European Parliament to vote and subsequently check that their votes have been correctly registered, i.e. there is a way to verify that the votes have not been manipulated.
Now, as a replacement for this e-mail voting procedure, several committees in the European Parliament start using a remote voting application called iVote. In order to use iVote, one needs to fulfill several requirements.
For starters, one needs to have an iPad or an iPhone. To make things even worse, not only that it applies to Members of the European Parliament, it applies to policy advisors of political groups and assistants to Members of the European Parliament who prepare voting lists. That is a lot of Apple devices needed for the European Parliament to perform its core function.
Sadly enough, that’s not the end of bad news. In order to use iVote, one also needs to have an iCloud account.
One of the implications of that—according to Apple—is that Apple automatically stores a lot of data from users’ devices on their servers, which may include photos, documents, contacts, calendars, reminders, bookmarks, health data, keychain, and passwords. In addition to it, iVote also sends all voting data to the cloud storage.
My main concern, however, lies in the mere fact that Members of the European Parliament have to open an account with a service provided by an American company and agree to their Terms of Service in order to be able to exercise the mandate.
If Members refuse to accept iCloud Terms of Service, for instance, they can’t vote. In other words, they can’t exercise their mandate. The right to exercise the mandate is crucial for a functioning democracy. Democratically elected representatives of citizens can’t be denied their right to vote just on the basis that they don’t agree with Terms of Service of an American company or that they don’t want to have an account with Apple.
In times of increasing cybersecurity risks and when Europe speaks about the need to ensure digital sovereignty, forcing the representatives of European citizens to be dependent on an American company to exercise their duty to vote is just a bad joke. All in all, I find this situation absolutely unacceptable and I will do all in my powers to stop such an abusive and undemocratic practice.