Meeting the challenges of e-voting

A voting system that encrypts data transmission to allow voters to cast their ballots in secretly and securely over the Internet was developed by TRUE-VOTE.

The goal of this IST programme-funded project was to design and implement a voting protocol based on digital signature and Public Key Infrastructure (PKI), as well as to integrate the most advanced technologies in cryptography and Information and Communication Technologies to guarantee transaction security and privacy.

The project was evaluated at five different locations, with 14 experiments and 2,300 registered voters. The consortium used surveys, interviews and a structured evaluation for each demonstrator to collect data.

For example, in Finland, 310 voters voted from home to express their opinion about two issues: “Do you think that Finnish welfare services and the amount of taxes paid are balanced? If there is a cost crisis in the economy of your local municipality, what should be done?” In the UK trial election, 83 voters voting at kiosks expressed their opinion about setting up and running a Neighbourhood Watch scheme.

E-voters found the system quite easy to use, with an accessible interface and fast system. However, importantly, they found that the digital divide is very much an issue in e-voting.

“The experience of users with computers and the Internet relates to the difficulties they experience in using the application and even more, in getting the system to work,” says project social science researcher Ms Anne-Marie Oostveen at The Netherlands Institute of Scientific Information. “Introducing e-voting from home may have impacts on the demography of the active voters.”

The legal issues, technology, organisation and logistics of e-voting are still very much a challenge. Behind an e-ballot is a complex system, which creates problems for many potential smaller users in the area of supporting voters.

The political hope that e-voting may increase turnout was not supported by the demonstrations and the level of public trust in the secrecy of the vote was very low. However, the project generated such a large amount of data that analysis is still ongoing.

“We clearly see that many organisational and political issues need to be solved in this area,” she said. “The remaining technological problems are the easiest ones to solve. To solve the main problems with respect to the organisation and logistics of ballots – the use, trust, freedom of the vote and possible effects on the outcomes – require further experimentation.”

Contact:
Anne-Marie Oostveen
Department of Social Sciences
Netherlands Institute of Scientific Information
Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, (NIWI-KNAW)
Tel: +31-20-4628686
Email: anne-marie.oostveen@niwi.knaw.nl

Source: Based on information from TRUE-VOTE

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