The Danish National Church goes online: New bishop elected digitally
The most recent bishop election in Helsingør Diocese was conducted digitally as an electronic election using Assembly Voting X. The system, which mimics the physical polling station, thus formed the framework for the battle for one of the highest offices within the Danish National Church.
For the second time in in Danish history, the Danish National Church held an election digitally. This happened when Helsingør Diocese elected their new bishop in the fall 2020. The election was carried out over a period of approx. 1 month and was initiated by a digital opening ceremony. Already a week into the first round of the election, nearly half of the eligible voters had casted their vote electronically.
Foto: Sarah Auken, Helsingør Stift
Secure, electronic voting
The actual election process was initiated on September 22nd, 2020 by selected election officials approving the setup of the election, just as we know it from the physical polling station. Here, the election officials also shared encryption keys via an election control application in order to ensure that no one has access to the election results before the end of the election.
By logging on to the system using NemID on their computer, tablet or smartphone, those eligible to vote in Helsingør Diocese could gain access to the electronic ballot paper and here, tick the preferred candidate for the episcopate. Assembly Voting X ensured the voters’ full anonymity in the entire election process by i.a. ensuring that a casted vote is not coupled with an identifiable person.
We are very pleased with the trust granted to us by the Ministry of Ecclesiastical Affairs in dispensing for the holding of what is now the second digital election in the Danish National Church. With the technology, security and documentation that our systems are built around, we always strive to live up to the same high demands for anonymity, integrity and control options that are set for e.g. parliamentary elections,”
- Jacob Gyldenkærne, CEO in Assembly Voting
Along the way, the election officials were able to control the voting on the so-called election board where all activities in the election system is being registered. At the end of the election, the election officials gathered again to close the election and calculate the results. After the first round of the election, one of the candidates, Peter Birch, had obtained half of the casted votes and could thereby already there be appointed as new bishop of Helsingør Diocese.
The total turnout reached 84 % in the battle for one of the highest offices within the Danish National Church. Peter Birch is replacing Lise-Lotte Rebel, who has been in office since 1995.
The Bishop Election is initiated by the Ministry of Ecclesiastical Affairs and in this case the Ministry has granted an exemption for the holding of an electronic election.
The election of a new bishop occurs only when an episcopate is available for instance if a bishop retires.
Eligible voters are pastors and other ward members in Helsingør Diocese.
Assembly Voting was also responsible for holding the first electronic bishop election in Denmark in Lolland-Falster Diocese in 2017.