With Providers Like Dominion, E-Voting Loses Prestige

E-voting has earned the trust it needed, thus preparing the field for more and more nations to decide to work on its implementation. The cases of Colombia and Russia (to name a few), where the necessity of automating elections to offer electoral guarantees to their citizens has become clear, are already well known.

However, it is fair to clarify that there are aspects that must be kept in mind in the way an automated system is implemented, as well as the conditions of the nations,. Recently in Palm Beach County, Florida, the electoral body declared victory for many candidates. Some days later, it was found out that other candidates were the actual winners. The election supervisor, Susan Bucher, stated that Dominion, the company in charge of the automation of the process, was at fault. The problem was a lack of synchronization between the lists of candidates and the Dominion software, which is why there was an error in the identification of the scrutiny.

In order to avoid this kind of critical flaws —imagine how it must be to declare a candidate President and one week later having to say the real winner is somebody else—, countries must evaluate very carefully the companies in charge of implementing e-voting. It is very important that the selected company has a successful track record and precise, safe and reliable technology. To that end, a wide and clean bidding process must be guaranteed. We recently wrote about the case of Jalisco, Mexico, where the electoral power granted a contract to an inexperienced company (Pounce), and it took more than a month longer than expected only to deliver the machines.

In order to carry forward a clean and efficient bid for e-voting, experts recommend normative, technical and organizational conditions which they deem essential. Some of them are: a public bid, which allows as many companies as there can be in the field to compete; the consideration of proven experience in the area, the inclusion of printed voting receipts in order to guarantee suffrage auditing, and the request for updated security norms for the systems.

On the other hand, there are nations (less developed than the United States, by the way) where voting security and the reliability of the elections are guaranteed with state-of-the-art technology. Among the automation methods that are used for the preservation of the ballot, there are systems that offer voting receipts (like the one in Venezuela, provided by Smartmatic), which allows both the voter to validate his/her vote as well as all those in the polling station to audit the results from any voting machine.

Electronic voting extended to companies

Electronic voting begins to emerge for shareholders of companies to be able to vote no matter where they are. Photo: Cie Automotive

There is virtually no area of human endeavor where technology does not provide solutions. And as part of the most advanced systems to optimize decision-making, electronic voting has come to shareholder meetings, speeding up the process, and what is best, allowing those who are called upon to vote, to do so safely no matter where they are.

The idea was born at the beginning of the decade of 2000 in Spain, and was promoted in enterprises of all sizes and levels; in order to open a business opportunity that encouraged companies engaged in voting technology, to design a system that would cope with the needs of the business world. Also in 2003, a law was passed which directed its use.

Thus, nowadays there are software offerings that enable shareholders to vote remotely (via Internet) and in real time, using a public electronic signature or one recognized by companies’ internal systems. It is also possible that executives may vote through their mobile phones.

This field of e-voting is just beginning to take shape, since equally to the citizenship or the political leadership, which showed resistance when subjected to modernize their election system, many companies have not yet been persuaded to change their voting schemes.

Research in the field has found that, unlike automation for constitutional elections, fears are not related to violation of the secrecy of the vote or fraud in the results, but are framed within the certification of the identity of the shareholder. This obstacle keeps the application of e-voting lagging, due to high of shareholder turnover -stocks are sold and bought daily- makes it difficult when in a meeting, to know exactly who is entitled to vote.

The use of electronic signatures is now the most functional solution found by experts to overcome this obstacle.  However, as in electoral systems of democratic countries, the implementation of corporate electronic voting happens because the will of each corporation is able to implement a system where databases are updated with the frequency required to ensure proper identification of shareholders.

This interesting branch of electoral automation is just beginning, but sheds light on how the electronic voting is overcoming barriers, not only in the field of constitutional elections, but also in business, where although the democracy of a country is not at stake, the survival of companies is put to test, and with them millions of jobs.

Belgium: the pioneer of electronic voting

The nineties hadn´t yet  come and Belgium already experimented with voting machines. A pioneer in the use of technology for the exercise of suffrage, in 1991 the country completed its first election using electronic elements and just past June 13 it used again an automated system, not only to comply with an election day, but also through the electronic voting, trying to solve an acute political crisis that it is tougher due to the fact that voting is compulsory in the country, there are three official languages and there will be five simultaneous elections.

In this post we like to expose the automated system that is employed by one of the most advanced countries in e-voting practices in Europe, and to do justice, in the world.

In Belgium the electoral process, except for the voter’s identification, is fully automated. It begins with the delivery of a magnetic card that the voter must enter into a voting machine that exposes the ballot. Each of the votes is issued with a stylus (pointer-laser light) and once the citizen confirmed that its choice is perfectly recorded, he or she removes the card that is inserted into an electronic ballot box where the votes are stored and encrypted for each voter. At the end of the day, the urn will scrutinize each of the elections and bring the number of votes obtained by candidates in each polling place.

The way Belgians vote is described as fast and simple. However it took many years to perfect the system, which allows a variety of security and transparency elements passing through digital signatures, picture of the voter and two voting cards.

Several companies have worked in Belgium in the implementation of the automated mechanism. The first was Dzine, and currently two different systems coexist, the so-called Digivote-system (Steria company) and Jitessystem (Stesud Company). To simulate the act of voting in this country, the electoral body placed since 2007 a link that allows anyone experience how they vote in this European country http://www.verkiezingen2007.belgium.be.

For the recent elections more than seven million voters were called. Not everyone uses an electronic system, mainly because of linguistic and political differences, but penetration is substantial: in the region of Brussels and the German-speaking cantons, all voters use electronic voting, while in the Flanders region 49% of the electorate and the French 20% will use this technology. The results are announced, even 15 minutes after the process is closed.

Due to the success of the system, several European countries have followed the example of Belgium and today, in the old continent automated voting is used in countries such as Estonia and Bulgaria. Netherlands and Ireland advance in its implementation.