AKP considers changes to voting system: Electronic voting, fingerprints and no ballot envelopes

The ruling People’s Alliance, comprised of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), has begun planning their proposed changes to the election system. Among the proposed changes would be electronic voting, the removal of envelopes for ballots, and fingerprint identification of the voter.

Duvar English

In light of waning support for the ruling People’s Alliance, the ruling Justice Development Party (AKP) and its coalition partner Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) have begun discussing changes to the voting law ahead of the planned June 2023 elections.

Both parties agree that the election threshold to enter parliament should be lowered to 7%, which would allow MHP to remain in the assembly, but the AKP also proposes critical changes to voting, including the implementation of an electronic voting system and doing away with voting envelopes. Critics argue this could lead to increased election tampering or vote loss. 

According to reporting by BBC Turkish, AKP sources say they are preparing to bring the vote envelope issue before the Supreme Election Board (YSK). Doing away with ballot envelopes would require a change in election law - the AKP argues this is necessary to counter the issue of “open ballots” that plagued the 2017 constitutional referendum. In that election, the YSK decided to count unsealed ballots after unofficial results showed increased momentum for a “no” vote. 

The AKP argues that Turkey is one of two countries in the world that uses an envelope system for ballots and that the system is problematic.

“Turkey is one of the two countries that use a voting envelope. This causes many problems. We plan to propose this [change] to the Supreme Election Board and the opposition,” the source said. 

The envelope system is intended to maintain both the secrecy and authenticity of the vote. Under the proposed AKP voting system, voters would place their ballot directly into the ballot box. In order to maintain secrecy, AKP sources argue, voters can fold their ballots in half. However, this could threaten the security of the voting system.

Another amendment proposed by the AKP would be to implement an electronic voting system. Such a system, they argue, would allow Turkey to keep up with technological developments worldwide - many countries around the world have already switched to electronic voting systems. However, as demonstrated in the U.S., these systems have shown themselves to be vulnerable to tampering, hacking, and interference. Critics are also concerned that such a system could lead to “vote loss” as a result of user error when voting or counting votes. 

Due to the difficulty of implementing such a highly technical system, it is unlikely that electronic voting would be proposed before the 2023 elections, AKP sources say. 

The final change put forth by the AKP would be to implement a “fingerprint voting” system, by which voters would be required to scan their fingerprints at voting booths prior to casting their ballot. This is also included in the draft plan proposed by the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) for its first year of governance. AKP sources told the BBC that this would eliminate duplicate voting and would ensure that people cast ballots under their own names. However, this system would require the full adoption of Turkey’s chip ID cards in order to function. It is highly unlikely that that will occur before the registration deadline for the 2023 elections.