On a bright Monday morning on July 29th, residents of Mendoyo Dangin Tukad, in Jembrana, Bali, lined up to choose their next village chief. Most wore traditional Balinese attire – batik sarongs-- with kebaya for the women and a headscarf (destar) for the men.
The election voting was far from traditional, as election officials said it was the most technologically advanced ever held in Indonesia, using touch-screen devices that verify voters' identity via their national ID cards.
Implementation of the e-voting system was a collaborative effort by the Agency for Assessment and Application of Technology (BPPT) and the Jembrana regional administration. BPPT provided the four e-voting devices, each worth about Rp 10 million ($1,000).
A major breakthrough
The new technology is a breakthrough for Indonesia, which plans to implement it in other parts of the country, according to the head of BPPT, Marzan Iskandar.
"We are very happy the system could be implemented for the first time in Bali, as this will be a pioneer of many other elections. The e-vote village chief election will become a miniature of a system that will be implemented across our country," he said.
All election workers were trained and certified by the BPPT and the Indonesian Technological Auditors Association (IATI), he said. The system prevents any attempt to vote more than once, because voters use their electronic identity card.
"So, no one can manipulate the result," Marzan said.
E-voting is also part of the country's attempt to reduce election costs, and could decrease such costs by nearly 50%, according to Marzan. "It will also cut much time for the vote count process, as well as cut the social cost that can be caused by polling disputes," he added.
Many Mendoyo Dangin Tukad voters appeared sceptical about the new system as they'd never previously voted by computer. Local election committee members patiently guided voters through the process, one-by-one.
"I'd rather vote using ballot papers than using a computer system. It is harder. The traditional system is far easier for me," said 55-year-old voter Wayan Ngidep.
The grandmother of eight had a particularly rough experience when the device she was using malfunctioned. Although election officials helped her navigate through the system, she felt her privacy was breached.
"Everyone finally knew my choice when they tried to help me," Wayan said.
Putu Bukit, 70, had to ask for guidance from her nephew in order to vote. "I don’t understand at all how to use the computer," she said.
But other villagers said it was smooth sailing. "I had no problem in the booth. I think the e-voting system is good," said I Gusti Agung Ayu, 67.
Voting ended at 2pm, after 1,753 out of 2,381 eligible voters cast their ballots. Candidate number two, IGAK Bambang, won the election with 536 votes, defeating three other rivals.
It was also a victory for local election officials who managed to convince the community to pioneer the system, with the help of promotional programmes and outreach by BPPT and the Jembrana administration.
"It was not easy for me to ensure the local leaders in the village would use the e-voting system. Most of them were worried about the accuracy of the election result," said local election committee chairman I Gusti Putu Suarden.
"The e-voting system was stipulated in Jembrana Bylaw No. 1/2010 on village chief elections. It was our pride to be the pioneer of our national e-voting system," Jembrana Regent I Putu Artha said.
E-voting could be implemented in other elections on the island, even the presidential election, said Ketut Lanang Sukawati Prabawa, chairman of Bali's General Election Commission.
"However, it needs a long preparation time before the system can be implemented all over the country. We should also conduct special programmes for several remote areas across the country, where most of the residents are not able to read," Sukawati said.