Electronic voting

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Electronic voting machine by Diebold Election Systems used in all Brazilian elections and plebiscites. Photo by Agência Brasil

Electronic voting (also known as e-voting) is a term encompassing several different types of voting, embracing both electronic means of casting a vote and electronic means of counting votes.

Electronic voting technology can include punch cards and marksense or optical scan ballots, and specialized voting kiosks (including self-contained Direct-recording electronic (DRE) voting systems). It can also involve transmission of ballots and votes via telephones, private computer networks, or the Internet.

Electronic voting technology can speed the counting of ballots and can provide improved accessibility for disabled voters. However, there has been controversy, especially in the United States, that electronic voting, especially DRE voting, can facilitate electoral fraud.


[edit] Overview

Electronic voting systems for electorates have been in use since the 1960s<ref>Bellis, Mary. The History of Voting Machines. About.com.</ref> when punch card systems debuted. The newer marksense ballots allow a computer to count a voter's mark with an optical sensor. DRE voting machines which collect and tabulate votes in a single machine, are used by all voters in all elections in Brazil, and also on a large scale in India, the Netherlands, Venezuela, and the United States. Internet voting systems have gained popularity and have been used for government elections and referendums in Estonia and Switzerland.

There are also hybrid systems that include an electronic ballot marking device (usually a touch screen system similar to a DRE) or other assistive technology to print a voter-verifiable paper ballot, then use a separate machine for electronic tabulation.

[edit] Paper-based electronic voting system

Sometimes called a "document ballot voting system," paper-based voting systems originated as a system where votes are cast and counted by hand, using paper ballots. With the advent of electronic tabulation came systems where paper cards or sheets could be marked by hand, but counted electronically. These systems included punch card voting and later mark sense.

Most recently, these systems can include a ballot marking device, that allow voters to make their selections using an and electronic input device, usually a touch screen system similar to a DRE. Systems including a ballot marking device can incorporate different forms of assistive technology.

[edit] Direct-recording electronic (DRE) voting system

A direct-recording electronic (DRE) voting system records votes by means of a ballot display provided with mechanical or electro-optical components like a touchscreen that can be activated by the voter; that processes data by means of a computer program; and that records voting data and ballot images in memory components. It produces a tabulation of the voting data stored in a removable memory component and as printed copy. The system may also provide a means for transmitting individual ballots or vote totals to a central location for consolidating and reporting results from precincts at the central location.

These systems use a precinct count method that tabulates ballots at the polling place. They typically tabulate ballots as they are cast and print the results after the close of polling.

In 2002, in the United States, the Help America Vote Act mandated that one handicapped accessible voting system be provided per polling place, which most jurisdictions have chosen to satisfy with the use of DRE voting machines, many switching entirely over to DRE.

[edit] Public network DRE voting system

A public network DRE voting system is an election system that uses electronic ballots and transmits vote data from the polling place to another location over a public network. Vote data may be transmitted as individual ballots as they are cast, periodically as batches of ballots throughout the election day, or as one batch at the close of voting. This includes Internet voting as well as telephone voting.

Public network DRE voting system can utilize either precinct count or central count method. The central count method tabulates ballots from multiple precincts at a central location.

Internet voting can use remote locations (voting from any internet capable computer) or can use traditional polling locations with voting booths consisting of internet connected voting systems.

Corporations and organizations routinely use Internet voting to elect officers and Board members and for other proxy elections. Internet voting systems have been used privately in many modern nations and publicly in the United States, the UK, Ireland, Switzerland and Estonia. In Switzerland, where it is already an established part of local referendums, voters get their passwords to access the ballot through the postal service. Most voters in Estonia can cast their vote in local and parliamentary elections, if they want to, via the Internet, as most of those on the electoral roll have access to an e-voting system, the largest run by any European Union country. It has been made possible because most Estonians carry a national identity card equipped with a computer-readable microchip and it is these cards which they use to get access to the online ballot. All a voter needs is a computer, an electronic card reader, their ID card and its PIN, and they can vote from anywhere in the world. Estonian e-votes can only be cast during the days of advance voting. On election day itself people have to go to polling stations and fill in a paper ballot.

[edit] Analysis of electronic voting

Electronic voting systems may offer some advantages over traditional voting techniques. An electronic voting system can be involved in any one of a number of steps in distributing, voting, collecting, and counting ballots, and thus may or may not introduce advantages into any of these steps.

Charles Stewart of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology estimates that 1 million more ballots were counted in 2004 than in 2000 because electronic voting machines detected votes that paper-based machines would have missed.<ref>Friel, Brian (November 2006)Let The Recounts Begin, National Journal</ref>

Some challenge the use of electronic voting because of errors and malfunctions that have occurred. In the United States on Election Day 2004, 2,269 machine problems were reported <ref>Election Incident Reporting System</ref>.

In May 2004 the U.S. Government Accountability Office released a report titled "Electronic Voting Offers Opportunities and Presents Challenges"<ref>Government Accountability Office (May 2004) "Electronic Voting Offers Opportunities and Presents Challenges"</ref>, analyzing both the benefits and concerns created by electronic voting. A second report was released in September 2005 detailing some of the concerns with electronic voting, and ongoing improvements, titled "Federal Efforts to Improve Security and Reliability of Electronic Voting Systems Are Under Way, but Key Activities Need to Be Completed"<ref>Government Accountability Office (September 2005) "Federal Efforts to Improve Security and Reliability of Electronic Voting Systems Are Under Way, but Key Activities Need to Be Completed"</ref>.

Others also challenge the use of electronic voting from a theoretical point of view, arguing that humans are not equipped for verifying operations occurring within an electronic machine and that because people cannot verify these operations, the operations cannot be trusted. Furthermore, some computing experts have argued for the broader notion that people cannot trust any programming they did not author.<ref>Thompson, Ken (August 1984) Reflections on Trusting Trust</ref>

Under a secret ballot system, there is no known input, nor any expected output with which to compare electoral results. Hence, electronic electoral results and thus the accuracy, honesty and security of the entire electronic system cannot be verified by humans.<ref>Lombardi, Emanuele electronic voting and Democracy</ref>.

Critics of electronic voting, including security analyst Bruce Schneier, note that "computer security experts are unanimous on what to do (some voting experts disagree, but it is the computer security experts who need to be listened to; the problems here are with the computer, not with the fact that the computer is being used in a voting application)...DRE machines must have a voter-verifiable paper audit trails... Software used on DRE machines must be open to public scrutiny"<ref>Schneier, Bruce {September 2004), openDemocracy What’s wrong with electronic voting machines?</ref> to ensure the accuracy of the voting system. Verifiable ballots are necessary because computers can and do malfunction, and because voting machines can be compromised.

[edit] Electronic ballots

Electronic voting systems may use electronic ballots. When electronic ballots are used there is no risk of exhausting the supply of ballots. Additionally, these electronic ballots remove the need for printing of paper ballots, a significant cost. Though there is debate over whether the total cost of ownership is lower that other systems. When administering elections in which ballots are offered in multiple languages (in some areas of the United States, public elections are required by the National Voting Rights Act of 1965), electronic ballots can be programmed to provide ballots in multiple languages for a single machine. The advantage with respect to ballots in different languages appears to be unique to electronic voting. For example, King County, Washington's demographics require them under U.S. federal election law to provide ballot access in Chinese. With any type of paper ballot, the county has to decide how many Chinese-language ballots to print, how many to make available at each polling place, etc. Any strategy that can assure that Chinese-language ballots will be available at all polling places is certain, at the very least, to result in a lot of wasted ballots. (The situation with lever machines would be even worse than with paper: the only apparent way to reliably meet the need would be to set up a Chinese-language lever machine at each polling place, few of which would be used at all.)

Critics argue the need for extra ballots in any language can be mitigated by providing a process to print ballots at voting locations. They argue further, the cost of software validation, compiler trust validation, installation validation, delivery validation and validation of other steps related to electronic voting is complex and expensive, thus electronic ballots aren't guaranteed to be less costly than printed ballots.

[edit] Accessibility

Electronic voting machines can be made fully accessible for persons with disabilities. Punchcard and optical scan machines are not fully accessible for the blind or visually impaired, and lever machines can be difficult for voters with limited mobility and strength.<ref>"Protecting the Integrity and Accessibility of Voting in 2004 and Beyond". People for the American Way</ref>Electronic machines can use headphones and other adaptive technology to provide the necessary accessibility.

Critics note that accessibility can be achieved in a variety of ways, and that computers do not need to be involved.

[edit] Cryptographic verification

Electronic voting systems can provide the opportunity for voters to not only verify that their vote was cast correctly (as with a "Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail"), but also that their vote was tabulated correctly with mathematical calculations.

[edit] Voter intent

DRE's are able to provide immediate feedback to the voter detecting such possible problems as undervoting and overvoting which may result in a spoiled ballot. This immediate feedback can be helpful in successfully determining voter intent.

[edit] Transparency

It has been alleged that electronic voting opens the possibility of large scale and difficult to detect electoral fraud by corrupting the voting system source code.

[edit] Audit trails and auditing

A fundamental challenge with any voting machine is assuring the votes were recorded as cast and tabulated as recorded. Non-document ballot voting systems can have a greater burden of proof. This is often solved with an independent auditable system that can also be used in recounts. These systems can include the ability for voters to verify how their votes were cast, known as a Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT), or further to verify how their votes were tabulated. Some systems allow voters to receive a receipt they retain to prove their vote. However, systems that allows the voter to prove how they voted are never used in U.S. public elections, and are outlawed by most state constitutions. The primary concerns with this solution are voter intimidation and vote selling.

Image:Desi accuvote-tsx vvpat.jpg
A Diebold Election Systems, Inc. model AccuVote-TSx DRE voting machine with VVPAT attachment.

Various technologies can be used to assure voters that their vote was cast correctly, detect possible fraud or malfunction, and to provide a means to audit the original machine. Some systems include technologies such as cryptography (visual or mathematical), paper (kept by the voter or only verified), audio verification, and dual recording systems (other than with paper). To be truly voter-verified, the record itself must be verifiable by the voter without assistance, such as visually or audibly. If the voter must use a bar-code scanner or other electronic device to verify, then the record is not truly voter-verifiable, since it is actually the electronic device that is verifying the record for the voter.

Dr. Rebecca Mercuri, the creator of the VVPAT (Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail) concept (as described in her Ph.D. dissertation in October 2000 on the basic voter verifiable ballot system), proposes to answer the auditability question by having the voting machine print a paper ballot or other paper facsimile that can be visually verified by the voter before being entered into a secure location. Subsequently, this is sometimes referred to as the "Mercuri method".

An audit system can be used in measured random recounts to detect possible malfunction or fraud. With the VVPAT method, the paper ballot is often treated as the official ballot of record. In this scenario, the ballot is primary and the electronic records are used only for an initial count. In any subsequent recounts or challenges, the paper, not the electronic ballot, would be used for tabulation. Whenever a paper record serves as the legal ballot, that system will be subject to the same benefits and concerns as any paper ballot system.

To successfully audit any voting machine, a strict chain of custody is required.

See Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail for more detailed information on voting machine audit systems.

[edit] Other

Other benefits can include reduced tabulation times and an increase of participation (voter turnout), particularly through the use of Internet voting.

Those in opposition suggest alternate vote counting systems, citing Switzerland (as well as many other countries), which uses paper ballots exclusively, suggesting that electronic voting is not the only means to get a rapid count of votes. A country of a little over 7 million people, Switzerland publishes a definitive ballot count in about six hours. In villages, the ballots are even counted manually.

Critics also note that it becomes difficult or impossible to verify the identity of a voter remotely, and that the introducion of public networks become more vulnerable and complex.

[edit] Electronic voting examples

[edit] Australia

In October of 2001 electronic voting was used for the first time in an Australian parliamentary election. In that election, 16,559 voters (8.3% of all votes counted) cast their votes electronically at polling stations in four places. <ref name="ace">ACE Electoral Knowledge Network</ref> The Victorian State Government introduced electronic voting on a trial basis for the 2006 State election. <ref name="vec">Victorian Electoral Commission Electronic Voting Pilot</ref>

[edit] Belgium

Electronic voting in Belgium started in 1991. It is widely used in Belgium for general and municipal elections and has been since 1999.

[edit] Brazil

Electronic voting in Brazil was introduced in 1996 (when the first tests were carried in the state of Santa Catarina, Brazil. Since 2000, all Brazilian elections have been fully electronic. By the 2000 and 2002 elections more than 400 thousand electronic voting machines were used nationwide in Brazil and the results were tallied electronically within minutes after the polls closed.<ref name="ace"/>

[edit] Canada

Electronic voting in Canada has been used since at least the 1990s at the municipal level in many cities, and there are increasing efforts in a few areas to introduce it at a provincial level.

In the Canadian Province of Ontario, from November 5 to November 10 2003, 12 municipalities from the Prescott Russell and Stormont Dundas & Glengarry Counties held the first full municipal and school board electronic elections in North America using either the Internet or the phone but no paper ballots.<ref name="ace"/>

Peterborough, Ontario will use Internet voting in 2006 in addition to the paper ballots.<ref>City of Peterborough 2006 Municipal Election Website</ref>

[edit] Estonia

Electronic voting in Estonia began in October 2005 local elections when Estonia became the first country to have legally binding general elections using the Internet as one means of casting the vote and was declared a success by the Estonian election officials.

[edit] EU CyberVote Project

In September 2000, the European Commission launched the CyberVote project with the aim of demonstrating "fully verifiable on-line elections guaranteeing absolute privacy of the votes and using fixed and mobile Internet terminals".<ref name="ace"/>

Trials were performed in Sweden, France, and Germany.<ref>EU CyberVote project</ref>

[edit] France

Elections in France utilized remote internet voting for the first time in 2003 when French citizens living in the United States elected their representatives to the Assembly of the French Citizens Abroad. Over 60% of voters chose to vote using the Internet rather than paper. The Forum des droits sur l'Internet (Internet rights forum), published a recommendation on the future of electronic voting in France, stating that French citizens abroad should be able to use Internet voting for Assembly of the French Citizens Abroad elections.<ref>WHAT IS THE FUTURE OF ELECTRONIC VOTING IN FRANCE?, The Internet rights forum 26 September 2003</ref>

[edit] Germany

In Germany the only accredited voting machines for national elections are the ESD1 and ESD2 from the dutch company Nedap. About 2000 of them have been used in the 2005 Bundestag elections covering approximately 2 million voters.<ref>efve.eu: Voting computer situation in Germany</ref> These machines differ only in certain details due to different voting systems from the ES3B hacked by a dutch citizen group and the CCC on 5. October 2006.<ref>Nedap/Groenendaal ES3B voting computer, a security analysis</ref><ref>CCC Information on voting computers (German)</ref> Because of this, additional security meassures have been applied in the municipality elections on 22. October 2006 in Cottbus, like reading the software from the EPROM to compare it with the original and sealing the machines afterwards.<ref>Wahlcomputer in Cottbus geprüft und versiegelt (German)</ref>

At the moment there are several lawsuits in court against the use of electronic voting machines in Germany.<ref>Misstrauen gegen Wahlgeräte: Wahleinspruch in Cottbus (German)</ref><ref>Informations on Electronic Voting lawsuit by Ulrich Wiesner</ref> One of these will probably go to the highest German court in 2007. The plaintiffs are missing the transparency if the voting computers store the votes as intended by the voter and the possibility of a recount because the certified Nedap machines to not have a paper trail.

[edit] India

Electronic voting in India was first introduced in 1989 and used on experimental basis. In 2003, all state elections and by-elections were held using EVMs.<ref name="ace"/>

[edit] Ireland

Ireland bought voting computers from the dutch company Nedap for about 50 million euro. The machines were used on a 'pilot' basis in some constituencies in two elections in 2002. Due to campaigning by ICTE, Joe McCarthy, and the work of the Commission on Electronic Voting, the machines have not been used since, and their future is uncertain. <ref>Cullen rules out use of e-voting in June</ref>

[edit] Italy

Italy experimented in the 2006 elections with electronic voting machines from Nedap <ref>taly: electronic vote-counting experiment during 2006 general election</ref> but decided against it, believing that voting physically is less easy to falsify". <ref>Stop electronic voting (AGI, November 29. 2006)</ref>

[edit] Netherlands

Since the late nineties, voting machines are used extensively during elections. Most areas in the Netherlands use electronic voting in polling places. The most widely used voting machines are produced by the company Nedap.<ref>Security of Systems Group of the Nijmegen Institute for Computing and Information Sciences</ref> In the parliamentary elections of 2006, 21,000 persons will be using the RIES internet voting system to cast their vote.

On 5. october 2006 the group "Wij vertrouwen stemcomputers niet" ("We do not trust voting machines") demonstrated on dutch television how the Nedap ES3B machines could be manipulated in 5 minutes. The exchange of the software would not be recognisable by voters or election officials. <ref>Nedap/Groenendaal ES3B voting computer, a security analysis</ref> <ref>Dutch citizens group cracks Nedap's voting computer</ref>

Apparently there was a case of an election official misinforming voters of when their vote is recorded and later recording it himself during municipality elections in Landerd, Netherlands in 2006. A candidate was also an election official and got the unusual amount of 181 votes in the polling place where he was working. In the other three polling places together he got 11 votes. <ref>Statement of voting machine manufacturer Nedap (German)</ref> Only circumstantial evidence could be found because the voting machine was a direct-recording electronic voting machine, in a poll by a local newspaper the results were totally different. The case is still under prosecution.<ref>Raadslid Landerd is stuk minder populair in schaduwverkiezing (dutch)</ref>

Van Eck phreaking might also compromise the secrecy of the votes in an election using electronic voting. This made the dutch government ban the use of computer voting machines manufactured by SDU in the 2006 national elections, fearing that secret ballots may not be kept secret. <ref>Dutch government scraps plans to use voting computers in 35 cities including Amsterdam (Herald tribune, 30. October 2006)</ref>

See also: Dutch general election, 2006: Voting machine controversy

[edit] Norway

The Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development of Norway carried out pilots in three municipalities at local elections in 2003 on voting machines in the polling stations using touch screens.<ref name="ace"/>

[edit] Romania

Romania first implemented electronic voting systems in 2003<ref>Romanian General Inspectorate for Communications and Information Technology</ref>, on a limited basis, to extend voting capabilities to soldiers and others serving in Iraq, and other theaters of war. Despite the publicly stated goal of fighting corruption, the equipment was procured and deployed in less than 30 days<ref>European Commission finding on Romania 2003</ref> after the government edict passed.

[edit] Switzerland

Several cantons (Geneva, Neuchâtel and Zürich) have developed internet voting test projects to allow citizens to vote via the Internet [1] or by SMS.

[edit] United Kingdom

[edit] England

Voting pilots have taken place in May 2006, June 2004, May 2003, May 2002, and May 2000.

[edit] Scotland

Scanners supplied by DRS Data Services Limited of Milton Keynes, in partnership with Electoral Reform Services, the trading arm of the Electoral Reform Society, will be used to electronically count paper ballots in the Scottish Parliament general election and Scottish council elections in 2007.<ref>"Electronic counting to take over from tellers at elections", The Scotsman, 19 April, 2006</ref><ref>"Green light for DRS & ERS to deliver e-Count for 2007 Scottish Elections", press release, DRS Data Services Limited</ref>

[edit] Documented problems

  • Fairfax County, Virginia, November 4, 2003. Machines quit, jammed the modems in voting systems when 953 voting machines called in simultaneously to report results, leading to a denial of service incident on the election. 50% of precincts were unable to report results until the following day. Also, some voters complained that they would cast their vote for a particular candidate and the indicator of that vote would go off shortly after. Had they not noticed, their vote for that candidate would have remained uncounted; an unknown number of voters were affected by this.<ref>Fairfax To Probe Voting Machines (Washington Post, November 18, 2003)</ref>

[edit] Recommendations for improvement

In December of 2005 the US Election Assistance Commission unanimously adopted the 2005 Voluntary Voting System Guidelines, which significantly increase security requirements for voting systems and expand access, including opportunities to vote privately and independently, for individuals with disabilities. The guidelines will take effect in December 2007 replacing the 2002 Voting System Standards (VSS) developed by the Federal Election Commission.

Some groups such as the Open Voting Consortium believe that to restore voter confidence and to reduce the potential for fraud, all electronic voting systems must be completely available to public scrutiny.

In the summer of 2004, the Legislative Affairs Committee of the Association of Information Technology Professionals issued a nine-point proposal for national standards for electronic voting. <ref>"Legislative Committee Resolution Awaiting BOD Approval". (July 2004). Information Executive</ref> In an accompanying article, the committee's chair, Charles Oriez, described some of the problems that had arisen around the country.<ref>Oriez , Charles (July 2004). "In Search of Voting Machines We Can Trust". Information Executive</ref>

[edit] See also

[edit] References


[edit] External links

[edit] Election Administration

[edit] Informational

[edit] Advocacy, Commentary, and Criticism

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Electronic voting

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