Pirate Party: voting system unfair for smaller parties

5:01 min

For elections, Swedes cast their ballots the old fashion way - by marking pieces of paper with a pen. But not everyone is happy with this system and the Pirate Party is again calling for some changes to be made.

Anna Troberg, head of the Swedish Pirate Party, one of several smaller political groups vying for a seat in Parliament this year, says the current ballot system places an unfair burden on them.

In Sweden, each party has its own ballot paper, or in fact several different ones, that the voters can choose from. First, there are the different colour ballot papers depending on what election you vote in: Yellow for Parliament, blue for county councils and white for municipal elections.

Then, in each color scheme, there are three different forms of ballots to choose from: one that lets the voters pick from a list of candidates of one particular party, another that lets them just choose a party and a third blank ballot where voters write whatever name or party they want.

Parties not represented in Parliament need to print and distribute their ballots on their own, which Troberg says draws away resources that could be used for campaigning.

"This is a huge problem for smaller parties because it takes a lot of money and a lot of energy from the activists that should be out talking about politics," Troberg says, "but instead they are out carrying big boxes of ballots around and trying to organize so people can actually vote for you"

She estimates in the last election the Pirate Party spent about SEK 180,000 on preparing ballots, not a hefty sum, she says, but still one that matters for a party of their size.

To change this, Troberg says existing technology could be used to cut down on the number of ballots printed and shift the responsibility of distribution away from the parties.

"When you go behind the little screen, there is a little printer, we call it a 'stupid printer' because it shouldn't be to the net and it should only be able to print ballots," she explains, with the printer would spit out the party ballot selected by the voter.

But with Swedes only heading to the polls for national elections every four years, the political will to change the voting system in Sweden is low.

The Pirate's suggestion, made before, also differs from what larger parties have proposed, which is voting via the Internet. It's been used in other countries like Estonia and piloted in neighboring Norway. A recent poll here even found that two-thirds of Swedes think it should be possible to vote online in the parliamentary elections.

But the tech-friendly Pirates aren't embracing e-voting, saying it's too vulnerable to hacking. E-voting expert David Bismark says he understands their skepticism and that the Pirate's proposal is a step forward from the current system.

"It's very difficult to form a new party and properly get people to vote for you because you have to distribute all of these lists," he says.

But he warns, given the pace of developing technology, using printers and paper could become obsolete or dated in a short period of time.

"People might be asking, why did we do this at all," he says, "why did we invest so much money in these printers when technology has moved on so far."

He says what is really needed is a robust political discussion on Sweden's voting system that happens more than just whenever an election rolls around.