Security of Electronic Voting Systems

Electoral warranties are the tools that allow a Nation and its voters to count on safe voting processes, but when it comes to e-voting, all eyes are set on the security brought by the use of voting machines.
In order to comply with requirements in the last decades, automation has taken gigantic steps to keep the ballot secret, direct, universal, and personal. The devised formula includes the submission of revisions (auditing of all processes), and also the design of software and hardware that can be adapted to the countries’ needs —mainly to what is required by law—. These systems must highlight the impregnable qualities of technological development, such as the speed of results, accuracy of scrutiny, simplicity of the process, and inviolability of the suffrage secrecy.

Nowadays, there are many varieties of voting machines in the market. With the available machines, the voter can manifest his or her vote through a button panel, marking a paper and then submitting that paper to electronic scrutiny, or selecting an option directly from a touchscreen or electronic ballot. In spite of this, regardless of the kind of device chosen, it is imperative to make sure that its performance offers security guarantees.

About the hardware: specialists recommend to install device controllers for external communications in order to guarantee that voting machines are not connected to data networks or the Internet, or that they have a stand-alone system that does not allow for connection between devices in order to guarantee their independence and the fulfillment of their function. Besides, contingency storage devices and external hatches can be installed in order to protect the external communication ports.

As for the software, e-voting has conceived mechanisms for the programs used by voting machines to have digital signatures, which are cryptographic tools with shared codes —in some countries, political parties and the electoral body have access to them—. These allow for the safeguarding of equipment, systems, and records from irregularities related to use prior to the election, errors in criteria and requirements typical of the process. They also prevent contents from being modified.

Other security aspects that have been sufficiently covered in countries that have implemented electoral technology are that each voter can only cast their ballot once and cannot steal another person’s identity. The path followed to achieve thishas been the use of biometric authentication devices, with which each person goes through a checkpoint (fingerprint scanning) where their identity is verified.

Two flagship examples of shielded electronic voting are those of Venezuela and Brazil. In the first, voting machines used are the models SAES-3300, SAES-4000, and SAES-4200, provided by Smartmatic. These machines register votes, carry out an automated scrutiny with no intervention from any external medium, and transmit electoral data. Stored information does not have a sequential order. For the machine, the voter is anonymous; there is no way to associate their will. On the other hand, in order to guarantee further audits, these machines allow for the reprinting of paper trails.

Brazil uses biometric voting machines, which allow for the identification of voters through their fingerprints. Voting devices, made under the supervision of the Superior Electoral Court, have a structure that includes the automatic transmission of results, digital signature, and information encrypting. Even though unfortunately this country’s machines don’t print paper trails, it is still an advantage that the devices are activated through biometric authentication, which guarantees the principle of one voter, one vote.

This way, references to the security of electronic voting are unquestionable. They exist, they are subjected to tests periodically, and they reflect that technology can not only facilitate but also strengthen electoral processes.


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