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Steve Baron Victoria University of Wellington, 2012 As part fulfilment for an Honours degree in Political Science (10,066 words) email@example.com Phone 0211651882 1
Abstract This study will examine the potential for implementing internet voting, as a companion to traditional ballot voting, into the New Zealand electoral system and take into consideration broad issues related to this implementation including democratic, technical and economic aspects. Internet voting will be defined and differentiated from electronic voting because both are very different tools and given the small population of New Zealand, there is no need for implementing electronic voting. The development of secure and reliable platforms to perform the technical process will be examined as well as considering the advantages, disadvantages and ways to mitigate risks inherent in internet voting. At the same time, a comparative perspective will be offered of various countries where internet voting has already been implemented, aiming to determine to what extent New Zealand can benefit from this experience and knowledge. The study will demonstrate that internet voting, while raising many concerns and fears—most of which can be adequately guarded against— offers New Zealanders a safe and convenient way to increase their involvement in the democratic system. Keywords: New Zealand, internet voting, digital democracy, elections, participation.
Introduction As is the case of many nations around the world, the internet has become intricately entwined in the lives of New Zealanders, both at individual and institutional levels. According to a 2010 AUT University study, The Internet in New Zealand 2009, 83% of New Zealanders use the internet on a daily basis, the vast majority of these having broadband (Smith et al., 2010). Expanding internet access and internet speed is now officially supported by the New Zealand government which has embarked on an initiative to install ultra-fast broadband to 75% of New Zealanders over the next 10 years (New Zealand Ministry of Economic Development, 2011). This represents a massive investment in the upgrade of the infrastructure which is estimated by government to cost up to $1.5 billion (New Zealand Ministry of Economic Development, 2011) acknowledging the growing importance of the internet to New Zealanders.
There are interesting details that give the measure of the overall landscape of internet usage. For example, 55% of New Zealanders use internet banking at least weekly and approximately 30% access secure services and pay taxes or fines online (Smith et al., 2010). Consumers' also feel safe to conduct a vast array of online transactions such as using the internet for various financial operations, such as transferring funds. Consumers' preference for online banking has been increasing constantly in recent years, while inbranch transactions have declined, according to Novantas (2011) a financial services industry adviser. Novantas also say the percentage of consumers who transferred funds online nearly doubled from 34% in 2005 to 67% in 2010. Thus, if New Zealanders are prepared to use the internet for managing their finances on a daily basis, it would not be unreasonable to assume their level of readiness to express their political choices through internet voting.
In fact, a survey conducted by the New Zealand Chief Electoral Office (2007) showed that 46% of New Zealanders would prefer online voting. However, internet voting is quite different from internet banking because there is a need for public accountability with internet voting, whereas with internet banking, public accountability is not important because millions of customers have the ability to check their bank statements to ensure the process was as they expected (Loeber, 2008). Having millions of voters checking the process of their internet vote is not possible unfortunately as this raises the issue of vote buying which may arise if voters can show who they voted for. Errors may be possible in 3
both systems but whereas in the case of internet banking, a customer may be able to recover lost money, errors occurring during internet voting may produce dramatic effects on the overall outcome of an election and be harder to detect without rigorous efforts by officials in charge of managing the electoral process.
The above figures demonstrate that internet culture has expanded exponentially throughout New Zealand, similarly with other developed countries. This situation has opened discussions around the world about the opportunity of using internet voting as a part of the electoral process. From one perspective, people now demand more from their government than ever before in terms of institutional interaction. One consequence of this attitude would be that citizens are likely to want to express their electoral options from the comfort of their homes or workplaces, instead of spending time waiting in line at the front of the polling booths on election day.
Internet voting is also answering a growing need of people with disabilities to have better access to cast their vote. According to a study by Runyan (2007), 20% of US voters have been unable to vote because of their disabilities. In New Zealand, 20% of the population has a long-term impairment (New Zealand Ministry of Health, 2001). It is also important to note that part of the statement of purpose of the New Zealand Public Health and Disability Act (2000) states the aim of this legislation is: “the promotion of the inclusion and participation in society and independence of people with disabilities”. However the New Zealand Disability Strategy report recognises that a lot of work is required to remove the barriers to participation faced by disabled people (New Zealand Ministry of Health, 2001, p.10).
The idea of internet voting is directly connected with the concept of digital democracy. Siedschlag (2005, p. 5) defined digital democracy as a: “pluralistic concept of governance that lets citizens develop [their] own spaces for designing solutions to collective problems.” [italics in original]. Given the apathy of New Zealand voters, consistent with the high level of apathy of voters around the world, internet voting could be considered one of the best options for attracting people to vote (Goodman, Pammett & DeBardeleben, 2010, p.15). This may be especially so for young people of voting age active on the internet and familiar with social networking. Improving voter turnout is a major consideration for New 4
Zealand given the ever decreasing participation rates in elections. Voting has dropped from 93.5% in 1946 to 79.5% in 2008 and in 2011 73.83%, the lowest turnout since 1887 (Elections New Zealand, n.d. & New Zealand Ministry of Social Development, n.d.). The figures are even worse for local body elections with only a 49% turnout rate in 2010 which was surprisingly an increase from 44% in 2007 (New Zealand Department of Internal Affairs, 2011).
Internet voting also represents a better option for New Zealanders living and travelling overseas who would like to express their political options. According to the New Zealand Department of Statistics (17 September, 2007), on any given day there are roughly 80,000 New Zealand citizens out of the country on short overseas trips and the Australian Bureau of Statistics estimates 477,000 New Zealand-born people were living in Australia at 30 June 2006 (New Zealand Department of Statistics, 2007). The department also estimated the New Zealand diaspora to be approximately 600,000. New Zealand citizens living overseas can enroll to vote online and ballot papers can also be downloaded from a dedicated website - www.elections.org.nz – but they cannot cast their vote over the internet.
According to the New Zealand Chief Electoral Office (2007), in 2005, there were 20,931 individual downloads of New Zealand ballot papers by New Zealand electors in 150 countries—not an insignificant number and having the ability to vote conveniently over the internet may very well increase this number. There are certain requirements before a person is eligible to vote in New Zealand elections, you must:
1. Be a citizen of New Zealand or a permanent resident. 2. Be 18 years of age or older. 3. At some time have lived continuously in New Zealand for at least one year. 4. Be registered as a voter on the electoral roll for your electorate. To be qualified to enrol in an electorate you must have lived continuously for at least one month in that particular electorate (New Zealand Electoral Act 1993 No 87).
Due to the high percentage – 83% - of New Zealanders having easy access to the internet, it may be expected there would be more likelihood for the introduction of a more 5
convenient voting system. In 2007 the New Zealand Electoral Commission commissioned UMR Research to undertake a public survey of 1500 New Zealanders evaluating their attitudes toward internet voting and internet banking. The survey showed that 46% of respondents would choose to cast an internet vote and 39% would not. The majority, 55%, said they would be comfortable with voting online. The survey also showed that 41% used the internet for banking, or to purchase goods, while 37.3% did not think the internet was safe enough for such operations (New Zealand Chief Electoral Office, 2007).
Thus, researchers such as Alvarez, Hall & Trechsel (2009) along with Tolbert & McNeal (2001) reached the conclusion that internet voting would increase the participation of young people in particular. Certainly, it would also give the option of expressing their vote to those on holiday, away from home through business travel, overseas personnel, housebound or disabled voters. Although there are the initial costs of setting up a secure internet voting system that need to be taken into consideration, it is expected that internet voting would have a long-term effect on decreasing the cost of elections and will reflect a different level of satisfaction with politics. However, such theoretical considerations still have no practical proof.
Although the New Zealand government and its many departments have embraced the internet as an information tool for their clients, to date, there has been little progress toward the establishment of internet voting. Chief Electoral Officer for the Electoral Commission, Robert Peden (personal communication, February 23, 2011) said: “After the 2008 general election it was decided that no further work would be done on developing evoting options before the next general election because of financial constraints.” Peden went on to say: “in 2012 we will revisit the question of the priority to be given to work on voting technologies”. There is a long list of other issues that also have to be taken into account when considering the adoption of internet voting, that will be examined one by one. At this level of the discussion it is also important to understand what is meant when the words “internet voting” are used, as compared to “electronic voting” as both terms are often used interchangeably.
Internet vs. electronic voting When discussing internet and electronic voting in general, various terminologies are regularly used. Terms such as e-voting, e-democracy, electronic voting, electronic ballots are often mentioned and each term means different things to different people. For the purpose of this study, it is important to differentiate between internet voting and electronic voting as both terms are quite dissimilar in their application and operation. Electronic voting incorporates such tools as touch screen voting machines, counting machines and optical scanning machines. Countries with large populations like the USA, UK and India have embraced this technology in an attempt to improve the voting process. The implementation of these tools requires investments worth millions of dollars and has achieved mixed results with a lack of public trust given very serious design faults in the equipment. The biggest players in the electronic voting equipment market have been the Ohio based Diebold Inc. through its subsidiary Premier Election Systems, Nebraska based Election Systems & Software and Austin based Hart InterCivic. Premier Election Systems was sold to Election Systems & Software in 2009 (Diebold, Sept.3, 2009) after falling sales and much controversy as to security, source codes and transparency. There was even a documentary called Hacking Democracy (Cohen, Michaels & Ardizzone, 2006) which exposed some security flaws in the technology. However, this technology and how it operates, will not be discussed in this study. Electronic voting equipment is not necessary due to such a small population and because it would be much easier and far less expensive to implement an internet voting system which offers safer guarantees in comparison with electronic voting.
The California Internet Voting Taskforce (2000) defined internet voting as: “the casting of a secure and secret electronic ballot that is transmitted to election officials using the internet”. In the opinion of the authors of the above report, remote internet voting represents: “the unsupervised use of an internet Voting Machine to cast a ballot over the internet using a computer not necessarily owned and operated by election personnel”. In their book, Point, Click & Vote: The Future of Internet Voting, Alvarez and Hall (2004, p.4) break internet voting into three distinct branches: Kiosk internet voting. Voting is done at certain locations by using a computer under the physical control of election officials to cast a ballot over the internet.
Polling place internet voting. Voting done at any valid polling place by using a computer under the physical control of election officials to cast a ballot over the internet.
Precinct internet voting. Voting that is identical to polling place internet voting except the voter can vote only at his or her own precinct polling place.
The simplified definition of internet voting that will be used in this study is: the ability to cast a vote from any internet connection, a definition in line with what Alvarez and Hall refer to as Precinct internet voting. However, this simplified definition does lead to many questions and concerns which will be discussed in due course. Before discussing such questions and concerns, the advantages of adopting internet voting in New Zealand will first be examined.
Advantages of internet voting For quite some time, successive New Zealand governments have been talking about the knowledge wave and the importance of the internet to New Zealanders (Clark, 2003; Key 2008). Internet voting would therefore fit smoothly into this scenario having many advantages that will now be discussed.
Convenience - This would be the first main advantage, allowing voters to vote when and where they want, in comfort, from any internet connection. This would be extremely appealing, especially if weather conditions on polling day were unfavourable—not to mention how much easier it would make casting a vote if you were at work, on holiday or overseas on election day.
Voter turnout - Voter turnout in New Zealand has continued to drop from election to election (Elections New Zealand, n.d.), especially amongst younger voters. It is possible that internet voting would have a similar effect as postal ballots have had on voting in Geneva (Switzerland) for example. After the introduction of postal voting, turnout increased in Geneva by 20 percentage points (Geneva State Chancellery, n.d.). Statistics regarding voter turnout are yet to be proven and there is some debate as to whether or not internet voting will improve voter turnout based on the Norris (2003) study which stated that: “technological quick fixes, while superficially attractive, cannot solve long-term and deep8
rooted civic ills”. However, if as previously mentioned by Runyan (2007), 20% of US voters have been unable to vote because of their disabilities; New Zealand also has 20% of the population with disabilities. Thus, involving this group in the electoral process will increase voter turnout figures.
The ever decreasing turnout and disenfranchisement of young voters is also a major concern and may perhaps be improved through internet voting given the high percentage of internet use among young members of society. Jim Adler, president of VoteHere.net (as quoted in Blitzer, 1999) said:
If you look at who votes right now, the youth do not vote. They are on the internet in droves, and it is expected that they will begin to move to voting as the Internet does.
There is also a growing trend for advanced voting prior to election day in New Zealand as the following table shows:
Year of Election 1996 1999 2002 2005 2008 2011
Percentage of Advance Votes to Total Votes 5.29% 5.31% 6.45% 8.59% 11.24% 14.23%
(Source: New Zealand Electoral Commission, personal communication, January 24, 2012). Advanced voting is expensive according to the New Zealand Electoral Commission (2007) so therefore, using internet voting may reduce the overall costs.
Reduced election costs - In the long term, election expenses would likely decrease as the introduction of internet voting increased. One of the biggest costs involved with 9
elections is the cost to employ staff to operate election booths and internet voting would reduce the need for so many booths. According to the Canada-Europe Transatlantic Dialogue (Goodman, Pammett & DeBardeleben, 2010, p.31) study on electronic voting, Dean Smith, the President of Intelivote (the company hired to run the internet and phone voting process for the Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM)) was quoted as saying: “Overall, HRM personnel are sufficiently pleased with the trials that they plan to eliminate a substantial number of polling stations in the 2012 municipal election”.
Special votes also represent an expensive part of any election and if these can be diverted through an internet voting platform considerable savings could also be made. According to the New Zealand Chief Electoral Office (2007), the estimated cost of special vote services in the 2005 New Zealand elections was $4.95m. The report also states that:
a 40 percent reduction in special votes and a 20 percent reduction in ordinary votes would save $2.31 million per election, and if 60 percent of special votes and 40 percent of ordinary votes transferred to e-votes the estimated saving would be $4.25 million per election.
These figures would seem rather conservative given that in the future, tech savvy generations are more likely to vote via the internet, as they became eligible to vote, as compared to current generations.
Multilingual ballots - New Zealand has three official languages, Maori, New Zealand Sign Language and English. According to the 2006 New Zealand Census (Statistics New Zealand, n.d.), 67.6% of the population identify themselves as European, 14.6% as Maori, 9.2% as Asian and 6.9% as belonging to the Pacific Islands. By 2026, Asians are expected to outnumber Maori (Bedford & Ho, 2008, pg.28) and given that English is only a second language to many Asian voters, this raises the barrier to election participation. Having bilingual ballots as well as candidate and party information available for voters with English as a second language is a much simpler process, far more cost effective and a major advantage offered by internet voting.
Error reduction - There are numerous human errors that can eventuate from a manual election voting system. For example: the wrong voter may be crossed off the election roll, ballot papers may be lost while in storage during the casting of early votes, counting errors may occur in the rush of getting election results quickly to the public, slow postal services may delay the arrival of ballots of overseas voters and voters may make accidental errors invalidating the ballot. Many or most such errors can be substantially reduced through internet voting. This is an important aspect as errors can have a dramatic effect on the final results in the case of a close election, as was highlighted in Florida (USA) in 2000 where the result could have changed the whole outcome of the US Presidential elections (Cauchon & Drinkard, 2001, May 11).
Faster results - Although New Zealand election results are generally announced expediently on election night, the official result is not confirmed until all the details are carefully checked, such as the names of all special votes against the electoral roll and the list of late enrollments, to verify that individuals have only voted once. This whole process would certainly be much easier, more efficient and produce a faster result with the use of internet voting as the computer system would do all of the hard work that is currently done manually.
Disadvantages of internet voting Apart from the obvious concerns such as security, reliability, verifiability, transparency and authentication which will be discussed later in this study, there are three other issues worthy of discussion.
Disintegration of civic participation - The first is of a moral nature with the disintegration of civic participation as internet voting is adopted (Putnam, 2000 and Mohen & Glidden, 2001). In Bowling Alone, Putnam (2000) describes voting as an “act of community”, so it could therefore be argued that internet voting would reduce this civic participation and deprive citizens of what has become a major social event one day every three years when they troop off to the polls to make their mark.
Digital divide - Another disadvantage often discussed is the 'Digital Divide' which 11
highlights how wealthy people tend to have better access to computers and other technologies compared to the less well off in society (Alvarez & Hall, 2004). There is also a certain amount of fear and confusion from older people in using computers and new technology (Faucheux, 2000), although older people would still be able to continue with traditional methods of voting on election day. In order to ensure older voters became familiar with internet voting the implementation of an education program would be needed.
Set-up costs - Any new project involves set-up costs and this can certainly be a disadvantage. Although difficult to estimate, there is no doubt that the initial cost of setting up internet voting could be expensive at first glance but in the overall scheme of things, probably not a huge amount of money compared to other government expenditure. Unfortunately, costing information in the New Zealand Chief Electoral Office's (2007) report, Draft Long Term Strategy for Voting Technology, were withheld under sections 9(2)(f)(iv) and 9(2)(i) Official Information Act 1982. This Act, although introduced to make official information more freely available, allows information to be withheld for specific reasons such as national security or considerations of international relations when information was supplied by another government in confidence, maintenance of the law, personal safety, or severe economic damage. A 2002 report from the Swiss Federal Council estimated the cost of introducing a nationwide internet voting system at 400 - 620 million Swiss francs (NZ$ 276 - 414 million in 2002), including running costs over a 10 year period (Swiss Federal Council as cited in Braun & Brändli, 2006). The cost of the iVote system in the 2011 New South Wales State general election was just over A$3.5 million (New South Wales Electoral Commission, 2011). Having now considered the advantages and disadvantages of internet voting, the importance of having solid criteria to judge it will now be considered.
Criteria for internet voting The development of a secure and reliable platform is required to collect information from many computers then to store and calculate that data. But the criteria used for judging this data system needs to be taken into consideration. As in traditional elections, criteria such as the following need to be considered: Authentication – The system must ensure a verification system of the identity of the voter, otherwise the system can be open to fraud.
Secrecy – A person must be able to cast their vote in secrecy and privacy, far from any possible source of coercion or temptation of bribery. Transparency – Voters should understand how the system works to have trust in it. Integrity – Votes should not be able to be fraudulently changed or deleted. Auditability/Verification - Officials must be able to verify and validate all votes counted.
Although there may be concerns around these criteria when considering internet voting, these concerns are, and continue, to apply to traditional paper ballot voting. A typical example of paper ballot fraud would be the case of a South Auckland Community Board candidate who, along with four others, was charged with election fraud after forging documents to falsely enrol voters in his electorate (Savage, 2010).
A study by Jackson et al. (2007) concludes that participants without prior training in browser security did not notice or understand the difference between an extended 13
certificate website and a fraudulent phishing website. Secure channels can also use multiple security techniques such as mutual SSL protocol, surencryption of data and authentication of messages. But the problem is that most web browsers do not have the ability to use such techniques. For this reason, Java technology (as used in the Geneva and Scytl Pnyx-based electronic voting platforms) has strengthened security. A Java applet is downloaded and the applet sets up the secure channel for the transportation of sensitive data (Geneva State Chancellery, n.d.).
There have also been advances in cryptography using Elliptic curves which are an advanced form of mathematics which help strengthen cryptography (European Science Foundation, 2009). It may also be likely that an added layer of security be supplied outside of the internet environment such as a special code sent to the mobile phone of the registered voter. This code would be activated through the internet voting system, sent to the voter via SMS and thereafter typed back on the internet voting system; thus guaranteeing that only the authorised person is casting his or her internet vote. International experiences with internet voting will now be examined, along with voters' feedback and lessons learned.
International experiences with internet voting At the beginning of the 21st century More than ten years ago, Sweden initiated a large study using questionnaires among EU member countries aiming to assess the use of internet voting and to decide on best practices for an eventual implementation in Sweden (Swedish Ministry of Justice, 2000). Non-EU member countries Norway, Iceland, and Switzerland were also included in the study. Another aim of the study was collecting information about the future plans of various governments to hold public elections using internet voting. The results of the study showed that at the beginning of the 21 st century: 1. No country within the European Community had ever implemented internet voting in referendums or public elections. 2. E-voting elements had been experienced in some partial elections, but without internet voting as such.
Several countries had plans for the future implementation of internet voting (i.e. The Netherlands and Ireland).
Since the Swedish government report, internet voting around the world has changed tremendously. Internet voting is now used in a number of countries in Europe and around the world as summarised below.
Internet voting in Australia In 2007, Australian Defence Force personnel stationed in Iraq, Afghanistan, Timor-Leste, and the Solomon Islands with access to secure defence force computing and communications facilities were offered the opportunity to try internet voting. The report stated: “The trial demonstrated that remote electronic voting for personnel deployed in Defence operations overseas could provide a convenient, reliable and secure method of voting in a Federal Election.” During the 2007 Australian elections, the voter turnout was also significantly higher compared with the 2004 Federal election. The Australian Electoral Commission (2008) suggested this was attributable to Defence personnel exerting their voting right through internet voting.
Internet voting was also used during the 2011 New South Wales State elections after Premier Kristina Keneally passed legislation to improve the accessibility of voting for visually impaired people. Remote voters who lived over 20km away from a polling station, along with inter-state and overseas voters, were also able to use the new system (iVote) which included both internet and telephone voting. 91% of iVote registrants cast a ballot and 95% of those ballots were cast using internet voting as compared to 5% which used the telephone option. Although initially designed to encourage more visually impaired people to vote, iVote was used far more by voters outside the State (Everyone Counts, n.d.).
Internet voting in Austria The first Austrian experience with internet voting was a project in 2009 where 240,000 students from 21 Universities cast their votes in over 400 simultaneous elections for choosing the student representatives. The Austrian Ministry of Science and Research selected the Scytl platform and used the Federal Computing Center to run the software (Scytl, n.d.). To date, internet voting has not been used in any Austrian general elections. 15
Internet voting in Canada To date, three large municipalities within Canada have conducted internet voting trials: Markham, Peterborough and Halifax. The results in Markham in 2003 were very encouraging with a 300% increase in advanced voting (Sibley, 2003). In 2006, advance voting online increased by 48%. Peterborough held its first internet voting in its 2006 municipal election for advanced voting only (Goodman, Pammett & DeBardeleben, 2010, 2010). Halifax first used internet voting in its municipal and school board elections in 2008. Telephone voting was also used in conjunction as an alternative for older voters that may have encountered difficulty using the internet. (Mellett as cited in Goodman, Pammett & DeBardeleben, 2010). The Halifax case is particularly interesting due to the fact that voters were not required to pre-register to vote online and a “decline to vote” button was also available as a form of protest. Future plans are for an Ontario pilot involving internet and telephone voting for a by-election in 2012. Elections Canada also intends to use internet voting in another by-election in 2013 if it receives parliamentary approval (Elections British Columbia, 2011).
Internet voting in Estonia Estonia is one of the most studied and mentioned countries when it comes to research about internet voting. It is a leading example from a very small democratic country. In 2005, Estonia, with a population of 1.35 million, was the first country to hold national elections using internet voting with binding results. The initial participation rate was particularly low given some technical authentication aspects; Estonian voters needed to purchase a smart card reader to be inserted into an available port on their computer to read the digital signature on their identity card (Alvarez, Hall & Trechsel, 2009). This would appear to be an obvious deterrence for internet voting, even though uptake in internet voting has increased. In 2005 1.9% of voters opted for internet voting. This percentage increased to 5.5% in the 2007 parliamentary elections, 14.7% in the 2009 European parliament elections, 15.8% in the 2009 local elections and 24.3% in the 2011 parliamentary elections. (Estonian National Electoral Committee, April 5, 2009). An analysis of the results showed that younger people were more likely to use internet voting and auditors gave the initial internet voting elections a positive evaluation (Alvarez, Hall & Trechsel, 2009). A report by Trechsel (2007) suggested that for a more widespread use of internet voting among Estonians, involvement of the Russian-speaking community is required, by the introduction of bi-lingual ballots. 16
Internet voting in France Internet voting in France has progressed steadily since 2002, when the system was used for the first time for the appointment of neighborhood council members for Issy-lesMoulineaux, a commune in the southwestern suburban area of Paris. Participation was low and a number of technical problems occurred. Also in 2002, internet voting was used by the French National Bar Council with high participation levels and very few technical problems (The Internet Rights Forum, 2003). In June 2007, internet voting for French residents in Africa and the USA was available for the election of 12 senators for the French Abroad Assembly, chaired by the French Minister of Foreign Affairs. This option is now available to all French citizens living abroad. At the time, 9% of voters used the option (eDemocracy Forum, 7 November 2009). In June 2012, 1.2 million French citizens in 11 different districts spread over 5 continents will be entitled to express their vote through the internet in order to directly elect 11 members of the French National Parliament (Scytl, December 26, 2011).
Internet voting in the Netherlands The Dutch were first introduced to internet voting in the 2004 European Parliament elections for voters living abroad. They were also able to cast their votes via telephone. The Online Voting Experiment Act was special legislation which was passed to implement this trial. The degree of participation to internet voting was extremely high. In the case of telephone voting, the participation was extremely low and the government discontinued this option. Due to this success, internet voting continued to be used during the 2006 Dutch national elections. Still, it was only open for overseas voters previously registered. 63% of those registered chose to cast their vote over the internet. Due to a previous controversy surrounding the use of electronic voting machines and the certifiability of such equipment, the State Secretary announced that because of the public demand for the certifying of internet voting, and the consequent expense and time consuming exercise that would be needed to perform this operation, he therefore decided to abandon internet voting for the 2009 European Parliament elections (Loeber, 2008 & Kiniry et al., 2007).
Internet voting in Norway In 2011, internet voting was used for 10 Norwegian council and municipality elections. The Norwegian Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development also sent an 17
invitation to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to observe the pilot internet voting project (Norwegian Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development, 2011). As a consequence, the voter turnout increased by 6% and 55,320 votes were cast online (Competence Center for Electronic Voting and Participation, 2011). Voters were able to cast their votes and also receive confirmation through SMS messaging to their mobile phones (Ansper et al., 2011).
Internet voting in Spain In Spain, a non-binding internet voting pilot was conducted during the 2003 elections for the Catalonia parliament. More than 23,000 Catalans living abroad (mainly in the U.S. and South America) were invited to vote via internet. The participation rate was very low with only 730 ballots being cast as voters who submitted an internet vote also needed to express their decision using a postal ballot. The experiment was still considered a success by the Generalitat of Catalunya, the main political body of the autonomous community of Catalan. Out of those who used internet voting, 70.52% were very satisfied with the experience and were interested in using it again (Riera & Cervelló, 2004).
Internet voting in Switzerland With a population of around 7.5 million citizens, Switzerland has been very progressive in introducing internet voting (along with various forms of electronic voting). Another aspect to consider in Switzerland is the high frequency of voting, with an average 4-6 nationwide referendums per year, along with numerous cantonal referendums. Due to the high frequency of elections and referendums Switzerland has probably developed the most advanced systems for internet voting (Alvarez et al. 2009). Switzerland's first internet voting experience was in the 2003 Anières (Geneva) municipality elections as well as in the cantons of Neuenburg and Zürich between 2003 and 2005. The subject of the vote was regarding a decision for a 4.3 million Swiss francs loan for restoring a communal building. Since then, internet voting has been used in a number of Cantonal elections and referendums. In 2009, a majority of 70.2% of Geneva's citizens approved the inscription of internet voting into their Constitution. This made Geneva the 2nd Swiss canton to have the internet voting option in the town of Basel (Republique et Canton de Geneve, n.d.; Goodman, Pammett & DeBardeleben, 2010).
In 2009 expatriate voters from Basel were able to cast an internet vote using the Geneva internet voting system in a nationwide referendum. In 2010, internet voting was expanded to a total of 12 cantons for citizens who lived abroad (Braun, 2011). At a Federal Council meeting in December 2011, requests were approved for the use of internet voting in a federal referendum scheduled for March 2012 (Swiss Federal Chancellery, 2011). The frequency of internet voting since 2003 has demonstrated an increased level of participation for internet voting in Switzerland, especially amongst voters between 18 and 39 years of age (Goodman, Pammett & DeBardeleben, 2010).
Internet voting in the United Kingdom In the UK, internet voting has been trialled a number of times during local body elections and referendums. Beginning with 2000 there were expressed intentions to extend regular election procedures using various methods, including internet voting (Webit eGov Summit Programme, 2010). In 2001, Bristol and Croyden voters were given the opportunity to cast an internet vote in a local referendum on Council tax and Council tenant rents. Voters also had the option to cast a postal or telephone vote. The participation rate for internet voting was 2.7% in the Bristol tax referendum and 3.4% in Croydon. In 2001 the London Borough of Islington (2003) held a referendum aimed at determining the structure of its Council and deciding if a new school should be built in the Borough. Voters could also vote using internet or telephone voting. 2.4% of voters cast their vote over the internet (The Independent Commission on Alternative Voting Methods, 2002). In 2007, Rushmoor Borough Council, Sheffield City Council, Shrewsbury & Atcham Borough Council, South Bucks District Council and Swindon all piloted internet voting (along with telephone voting) (UK Electoral Commission, 2007).
The Electoral Commission (UK Electoral Commission, 2007) recommended that no further trials should be undertaken until a framework incorporating their recommendations were put in place. The list of recommendations included: A comprehensive electoral modernisation framework covering the role of e-voting, including a clear vision, strategy and effective planning. The strategy must outline how the important issues of transparency and public trust will be addressed and should outline the process by which a more cost-effective deployment of the technology can be achieved. 19
A central process must be implemented to ensure that tested and approved e-voting solutions can be selected by local authorities. This could be achieved either through an accreditation and certification process or through a more robust procurement framework than is currently in place. This process must be used to enforce the required levels of security and transparency.
Sufficient time must be allocated for planning e-voting pilots. This should be approximately six months between the time the supplier contract is awarded and the elections (UK Electoral Commission, 2007).
Similar observations were made by Goodman, Pammett & DeBardeleben (2010) according to whom:
Despite extensive research and the fulfilment of the noted prerequisites, part of the problem with the UK trials is that from the beginning they did not allow sufficient time for testing or development given that they chose to trial so many methods of electronic voting simultaneously.
Internet voting in the USA The first American experience with internet voting was a straw poll for the 2000 Alaska Republican and Arizona Democratic primary (internal party) elections (Alvarez & Nagler, 2000). The turn-out for the Arizona election was twice that of other Arizona Democratic primary elections since 1984 (Kantor, 2000). In 2004 the Secure Electronic Registration and Voting Experiment (SERVE) was built for the U.S. Department of Defence FVAP (Federal Voting Assistance Program) aiming to allow military forces overseas to vote in primary and general elections. It was also expected that this system would be extended to anyone residing overseas eligible to vote in the U.S. (Jefferson et al., 2004). Deputy Secretary of Defence Paul Wolfowitz blocked the use of the SERVE system for the November 2004 general election after receiving a bad security evaluation (Alvarez & Hall, 2008, p.84). During the 2008 Presidential elections in Florida, internet voting was available to overseas citizens registered in Okaloosa County (State of Florida). Sofge (2009) raised questions about security, as election officials and staff in Okaloosa County operated the whole process. In 2011, the largest online election ever conducted by a public agency was 20
in the King Conservation District (State of Washington) for the election of its Board of Supervisors (Scytl, 2011).
Interest in internet voting in the USA has also been aroused recently as the 1986 Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA) was expanded significantly when US Congress passed the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) Act. The main aim of this Act ensured the ability to vote, for members of the military forces and their families working overseas. Specifically, the Act states:
the MOVE Act requires states to transmit validly-requested absentee ballots to UOCAVA voters no later than 45 days before a federal election, when the request has been received by that date, except where the state has been granted an undue hardship waiver approved by the Department of Defense for that election (United States Department of Justice, 2010).
To date, a number of states have not fulfilled their obligation and legal proceedings have now been initiated to ensure they do (United States Department of Justice, 2010). According to Barnes (2010), only 33 states were using internet voting to support military and overseas voting. There have been numerous difficulties during the process of sending and receiving the ballot papers on time and a new initiative is necessary for developing a secure internet voting system for rectifying this problem. It has been suggested by Stewart (2011) that the MOVE Act may: “become a back door through which Internet voting eventually becomes mainstream”.
Internet voting in New Zealand Although New Zealanders can enrol to vote online (voters must still sign a paper document before the right is granted), as of the date of this study, there has never been the opportunity to cast an internet vote in any local body or central government election. However, a number of community and commercial organisations have used internet voting. Examples include: Fonterra, Meat & Wool NZ, the WEL Energy Trust, the New Zealand Teachers Council and others (New Zealand Chief Electoral Office, 2007; Doesburg, 2008). According to Doesburg's (2008) report in the New Zealand Herald: 21
the Chief Electoral Office's suggested timetable, the first trial of voting using the internet isn't likely until the 2014 general election. Further trials are recommended for at least the following two general elections before internet voting is made widely available in 2023 at the soonest.
In 2010, then Commerce Minister, Simon Power, told members of the New Zealand Shareholders Association that they could be voting for new directors on the internet by 2011 with proposed changes to the Companies Act (Parker, 2010). To date, the Regulatory Reform Bill (containing the amendments to enable electronic shareholder voting) is at the Committee stage and had its second reading in Parliament on the 27th March 2012. It must pass a 3rd reading in Parliament before becoming law.
Internet voter surveys Generally speaking, in countries where internet voting has been used, the voters' feedback has been positive. The research done by Riera & Cervelló (2004) among 730 voters who participated in a non-binding pilot, run in parallel to the 2003 election of the Catalonia (Spain) parliament, showed 97.34% of the participants were satisfied (26.82%) or very satisfied (70.52%) with internet voting. Voters felt quite secure during the voting process with only 3.91% saying they had little or no confidence with the procedure. 98.22% of the participants assessed internet voting as easy or very easy to use.
Comfort was assessed as the most important factor in using the internet voting system according to 74% of the participants, while security of the system was important for 33.21% of those interviewed. 98.22% of the voters said they would definitely (83.66%) or probably (14.56%) use internet voting in further elections. The questionnaire received a surprisingly high response rate of 77%.
In the Netherlands there was much controversy and distrust against electronic voting machines, mostly due to negative experiences. Although feedback from a 2006 Netherlands election survey showed that 99% preferred internet voting compared to postal voting and 94% of those surveyed wanted the government to implement internet voting 22
permanently, as discussed previously in this study, the controversy surrounding specifiability (Loeber, 2008) transferred a negative image to internet voting as well.
According to a report by Damovo (2007), a communication company who commissioned a national survey of 931 Irish adults following the Irish 2007 elections, an additional 395,640 people would have voted if internet voting, telephone voting or SMS voting were available. This survey also highlighted that 44% of respondents who did not vote claimed that this happened because they encountered difficulties in getting to the polls on election day. The report highlighted that 51% of all respondents (66% of 18-34 year olds) would have been willing to use the above methods if they were available.
A survey commissioned by Delvinia, a digital strategy and customer experience design firm, showed that 99% of Markham (Canada) residents who used internet voting in 2010 would do it again, and gave it a 86% for convenience. Advanced voting skyrocketed by 300%. The key results showed that internet voting was all about convenience with 91% of online voters preferring to vote from home (Froman, 2011).
A report by Allen Consulting Group (2011), commissioned by the New South Wales Electoral Commission to conduct a major survey of iVote registrants in the 2011 New South Wales (NSW) State General Election showed that out of 51,103 people registered to use the iVote system; 46,864 actually used it; a number four times higher than the original estimates. Participation was registered mainly from voters outside NSW on election day rather than the visually impaired who were expected to use the iVote system the most— but did not. The survey showed that 96% of survey respondents were either 'satisfied' or 'very satisfied' with the way iVote worked when casting their vote. It also showed that 6% of respondents’ experienced technical problems during the registration process, a further 3% experienced technical problems during voting, while only 1 per cent experienced problems both during the registration and voting processes. The report stated: “Technical problems did not lead to high levels of concern about the security of respondents vote.”
Governmental studies and evaluations Numerous journal articles and books have been written on the subject of internet voting. In 23
this section five governmental studies dedicated to this issue will be reviewed, together with three evaluations of internet voting trials undertaken by various governments because it is important for New Zealand to use the knowledge already discovered by other governments on this issue. This discussion will follow in chronological order to help the reader see the development of the thinking and discussions regarding internet voting.
Although it is not a government as such, the Strasbourg based Council of Europe (2004) is an international organisation founded in 1949 with 47 member states. Its role is the promotion of co-operation between European countries in the area of legal standards, human rights, democratic development, the rule of law and cultural co-operation among member states. This Council made an important contribution to the discussion of internet voting so it is important the reader be aware of the Councils' input. In 2004, the Council of Europe dedicated considerable time and energy creating a recommendation relating to the legal, operational and technical standards for electronic voting. The Council also made numerous recommendations for internet voting. Many of these recommendations and guidelines have been referred to and incorporated in many of the following reports that will be addressed. These recommendations should be referred to at the readers' convenience and are included in the Appendix.
Studies: California Internet Taskforce. (2000). A Report on the Feasibility of Internet Voting In 2000, a feasibility study was completed by this Taskforce. The Secretary of State, Bill Jones, convened the study to decide if internet voting was feasible for elections in California. More than two dozen experts in the field of data security, elections and voter participation took part in creating this report. The report noted that although internet voting would increase access for millions of voters who did not regularly vote, there were significant technological threats. The report went on to say that despite such challenges internet voting is technically feasible and: “at least as secure from vote tampering as the current absentee ballot process in California.” The report concluded:
Until digital signatures and digital identification are a common aspect of everyday life for all Californians, on-line registration and the eventual collection of on-line petition signatures for initiative, referendum and recall campaigns should not be 24
Internet Policy Institute. (2001). Report of the National Workshop on Internet Voting: Issues and Research Agenda The Internet Policy Institute is sponsored by the United States National Science Foundation. This study was conducted in cooperation with the University of Maryland, in December 1999 at the initiative of President Clinton. A number of experts were invited to contribute. The report concluded that: “ensuring the integrity of elections while preserving public confidence in the election process” was much harder than it looked. The report stated:
Remote Internet voting systems pose significant risk to the integrity of the voting process, and should not be fielded for use in public elections until substantial technical and social science issues are addressed. [italics in the original]
At the time of this report, the widespread belief was that security risks were too serious and impossible to be solved with the technology available at that time. The report also stated that voter registration was a particularly weak link in the U.S. electoral process and this was likely to be worsened with internet voting registration. The study called for much more research on all aspects of internet voting.
Norwegian Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development. (2006). Electronic voting – challenges and opportunities In May 2004, the Norwegian Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development appointed a working committee of 11 members to assess the potential and possibilities of introducing 'e-voting' (which includes internet voting) in Norwegian elections. The main objectives were to evaluate the facilitation of voters' democratic rights and reduce the costs related to this exercise. The working committee concluded that current technical solutions were inadequate and therefore could not recommend the general introduction of internet voting. Instead, it recommended more pilot schemes for gaining experience and addressing technical solutions. The report concluded: “there is good reason to believe that better solutions will be available on the market in due course.” 25
New Zealand Chief Electoral Office. (2007). Draft Long Term Strategy for Voting Technology While covering many of the aspects and concerns of other studies, the study of the NZ Chief Electoral Office acknowledged the growing demand for internet voting and took a positive, but very cautious stance, in suggesting a very slow and well thought out process of pilot programmes before any final decision of implementing internet voting.
Elections British Columbia. (2011). Discussion Paper: Internet Voting Similar to the New Zealand Chief Electoral Office study, the Elections British Columbia report reviewed previous literature aiming to provide future studies on internet voting, with some basic guidance. The report outlines that there were no documented cases of hacking of internet voting systems in any public election, noting the policy makers should: “maintain a steady focus on the need to maintain public confidence in the voting process and that change strikes a balance among electoral principles that is acceptable to British Columbians.”
Federal Voting Assistance Program. (Jefferson et al., 2004). A Security Analysis of the Secure Electronic Registration and Voting Experiment (SERVE) The authors of this report, Dr. David Jefferson, Dr. Aviel Rubin, Dr. Barbara Simons and Dr. David Wagner are members of the Security Peer Review Group and experts in computerised election security. They were employed by the U.S. Federal Voting Assistance Program to evaluate the Secure Electronic Registration and Voting Experiment (SERVE). SERVE is an internet-based voting system built for the US Department of Defence to allow overseas voters and military personnel to vote in the 2004 US primary and general elections. Their task was to identify potential vulnerabilities in the system. Apparently, the group took an extremely negative stance saying that although there were no successful attacks on the system detected, that, “does not mean that none occurred”. The group suggested that attacks can be cleverly hidden and were difficult to detect and that SERVE was the: “top of a slippery slope toward even more vulnerable systems in the future”. Their final conclusion was that vulnerabilities were fundamental to the architecture 26
of the internet, PC hardware and software and could not be eliminated without major overhauls. Therefore they recommended the shut-down of SERVE.
Australian Electoral Commission. (2008). Evaluation of the remote electronic voting trial for overseas based ADF personnel electors at the 2007 Federal Election After an enquiry into the 2004 Australian general elections, the Department of Defence highlighted problems with the tight time-frame the election period presented in the dispatch and return of postal votes for Defence Force personnel wanting to vote while on duty overseas. The government passed changes to existing laws in order to allow a trial of internet voting for personnel serving overseas. The objective of the Australian Electoral Commission was to: “determine the effectiveness of the trial in providing a secure, reliable, and convenient method of voting at federal elections for overseas ADF personnel.” The result of the study confirmed this was a possibility, outlining high levels of satisfaction with the process. Although it did note that some 16 personnel were concerned about the lack of privacy in casting their vote.
New South Wales (NSW) Electoral Commission. (Allen Consulting Group, 2011). Evaluation of technology assisted voting provided at the NSW State General Election March 2011 In 2010, the NSW Premier announced that the NSW Electoral Commissioner would investigate the challenges of internet voting for visually impaired people. The iVote system was initially used during the 2011 NSW State General Election. Voters who lived far from polling booths were also eligible to use the system for casting their vote. The result was considered highly successful with the number of users being four times higher than original estimates, but lower than expected for blind or vision-impaired voters and voters with disabilities. In comparison with the SERVE analysis, this study did not delve into the security aspects of the iVote system, being more of a survey of participants. The study did highlight the need for an easier to navigate iVote website and uncovered voters' dissatisfaction with a few technical glitches. It also made suggestions for an easier and simpler registration process. According to the study, the registration system presented the following features:
Participants could register for iVote either through a dedicated iVote call-centre or 27
via the Internet. A 6 digit PIN was sent to their enrolled address confirming their application. The elector was then supplied with an iVote number that enabled them to access the iVote system and vote. This iVote number was either mailed, sent by email or SMS or provided over the phone for those who had difficulty in accessing written material. The iVote number was an 8-digit number, which was provided once the Electoral Roll closed.
It is rather surprising that the above study suggested making the registration process easier and simpler; it would be expected that this would be a minimal requirement to ensure the security and authenticity of the process. Internet voting presents other risks that will now be examined, along with how they may be mitigated.
Mitigating the risks Authenticity/Registration – In order to ensure a robust election system and prevent the duplication of votes, the voting enrolment system must have a centralised database, be reliable and use a verification system to check the identity of the person voting. In New Zealand, this process is operated by the Electoral Commission. Any citizen is able to enrol and update his or her enrolment online using basic information such as their full name, date of birth and their address. The enrolment process is confirmed by requiring voters registering online to sign the enrolment form and return it to the Electoral Commission before the enrolment is accepted or updated. It is likely this system would not change if internet voting were introduced into New Zealand.
Security - In addition to previous discussions concerning the security of internet voting, further precautions should be taken into consideration. For example, no one person, nor department, should be authorised to hold electronic security locks to the ballot boxes. Encryption keys should be held by several people who need to be present for accessing electronic votes cast, in order to ensure the integrity of the internet voting system. The New Zealand Electoral Commission should also have the power to authorise any investigation or audit of the internet voting system along with the source code. Also, by making the internet voting source code available (through open source) the whole system becomes transparent and any weaknesses in the system are quickly exposed (International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, 2011). The New Zealand 28
government has also taken steps to protect government agencies and critical infrastructure from cyber threats by establishing the New Zealand National Cyber Security Centre, part of the Government Communications Security Bureau. This organisation could play a critical role in bolstering security around the internet voting system.
Voter coercion - There are several options to reduce the incidence of voter coercion, an important issue often raised in internet voting discussions. Advanced internet voting needs to be available for a period prior to the election day, perhaps 7-14 days in advance. An internet voter must also have the opportunity to recast his or her vote. By allowing this option, anyone who feels that his or her vote has not been cast in secret, will be able to recast the vote at a later date. Voters must also have the option of a paper based vote even once they have cast an internet vote and the paper based vote would therefore legally cancel the internet vote. These options therefore reduce the threat of voter coercion but it must also be remembered that postal voting in New Zealand, which is widely accepted and regularly used in various local body elections, is also open to voter coercion.
Vote buying - To ensure that votes cannot be bought or sold, it is imperative that no receipt or confirmation be given as to how a voter cast their vote.
Conclusion Despite the unsatisfactory start some poorly designed and poorly tested small scale internet voting systems experienced, along with poorly designed and poorly tested electronic voting equipment that often gave anything but paper ballot voting a bad name, internet voting would now seem inevitable—especially since the success of internet voting in Estonia, Switzerland and Australia. While New Zealand is still to create a legal framework or official criteria for internet voting, the internet itself has become more and more embedded in New Zealand culture and the demand for internet voting as a democratic tool can only increase.
Any internet voting system introduced to New Zealand would certainly need to be adapted or created to suit New Zealand's particular electoral system—but this is no great barrier and the technology is now available with the benefits being fairly obvious. This does not need to be an expensive exercise and not likely to come anywhere near the cost of 29
implementing a new Inland Revenue computer system estimated to cost over $1 billion (Pullar-Strecker, 2012). New Zealand has indeed benefited from not adopting internet voting at the time many other countries embraced it shortly after the turn of the century and this caution was wise. Now, after the widespread use of the internet, there is far more confidence in its security.
Thus, the experimentation of various internet voting systems will be more than welcomed. The starting point may be a non-binding internet voting trial at a local body election or perhaps even a nationwide referendum given that referendums are not binding on the government anyway. The next step could be regionally concentrated internet voting with or without binding results. Every step must be used to improve the internet voting system, platform, and particular methods used. Well thought out trials and analysis will increase the confidence of New Zealanders in the system as well as giving political designers time to iron out the wrinkles that will no doubt appear along the way. What is now needed is either public pressure or the foresight of the political elite to embrace the concept and initiate the process.
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COUNCIL OF EUROPE
COMMITTEE OF MINISTERS
Recommendation Rec(2004)11 of the Committee of Ministers to member states on legal, operational and technical standards for e-voting (Adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 30 September 2004 at the 898th meeting of the Ministers' Deputies) The Committee of Ministers, under the terms of Article 15.b of the Statute of the Council of Europe, Considering that the aim of the Council of Europe is to achieve a greater unity between its members for the purpose of safeguarding and promoting the ideals and principles, which are their common heritage; Reaffirming its belief that representative and direct democracy are part of that common heritage and are the basis of the participation of citizens in political life at the level of the European Union and at national, regional and local levels; Respecting the obligations and commitments as undertaken within existing international instruments and documents, such as:
– the Universal Declaration on Human Rights;
– the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; – the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination; – the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women; – the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ETS No. 5), in particular its Protocol No. 1 (ETS No. 9); – the European Charter of Local Self-Government (ETS No. 122); – the Convention on Cybercrime (ETS No. 185); – the Convention for the Protection of Individuals with Regard to Automatic Processing of Personal Data (ETS No. 108); – Committee of Ministers Recommendation No. R (99) 5 on the protection of privacy on the Internet; – the document of the Copenhagen Meeting of the Conference on the Human Dimension of the OSCE; – the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union; – the Code of Good Practice in Electoral Matters, adopted by the Council for democratic elections of the Council of Europe and the European Commission for Democracy through Law; Bearing in mind that the right to vote is one of the primary foundations of democracy, and that, consequently, evoting system procedures shall comply with the principles of democratic elections and referendums; Recognising that as new information and communication technologies are increasingly being used in day-to-day life, member states need to take account of these developments in their democratic practice; Noting that participation in elections and referendums at local, regional and national levels in some member states is characterised by low, and in some cases steadily decreasing, turnouts; Noting that some member states are already using, or are considering using e-voting for a number of purposes, including:
– enabling voters to cast their votes from a place other than the polling station in their voting district;
– facilitating the casting of the vote by the voter; – facilitating the participation in elections and referendums of all those who are entitled to vote, and particularly of citizens residing or staying abroad; – widening access to the voting process for voters with disabilities or those having other difficulties in being physically present at a polling station and using the devices available there; – increasing voter turnout by providing additional voting channels; – bringing voting in line with new developments in society and the increasing use of new technologies as a medium for communication and civic engagement in pursuit of democracy;
– reducing, over time, the overall cost to the electoral authorities of conducting an election or referendum;
– delivering voting results reliably and more quickly; and – providing the electorate with a better service, by offering a variety of voting channels;
Aware of concerns about certain security and reliability problems possibly inherent in specific e-voting systems; Conscious, therefore, that only those e-voting systems which are secure, reliable, efficient, technically robust, open to independent verification and easily accessible to voters will build the public confidence which is a prerequisite for holding e-voting, Recommends that the governments of member states, where they are already using, or are considering using, evoting comply, subject to paragraph iv. below, with paragraphs i. to iii. below, and the standards and requirements on the legal, operational and technical aspects of e-voting, as set out in the Appendices to the present Recommendation: i. e-voting shall respect all the principles of democratic elections and referendums. E-voting shall be as reliable and secure as democratic elections and referendums which do not involve the use of electronic means. This general principle encompasses all electoral matters, whether mentioned or not in the Appendices; ii. the interconnection between the legal, operational and technical aspects of e-voting, as set out in the Appendices, has to be taken into account when applying the Recommendation; iii. member states should consider reviewing their relevant domestic legislation in the light of this Recommendation; iv. the principles and provisions contained in the Appendices to this Recommendation do not, however, require individual member states to change their own domestic voting procedures which may exist at the time of the adoption of this Recommendation, and which can be maintained by those member states when e-voting is used, as long as these domestic voting procedures comply with all the principles of democratic elections and referendums; v. in order to provide the Council of Europe with a basis for possible further action on e-voting within two years after the adoption of this Recommendation, the Committee of Ministers recommends that member states:
– keep under review their policy on, and experience of, e-voting, and in particular the implementation of the
provisions of this Recommendation; and – report to the Council of Europe Secretariat the results of their reviews, who will forward them to member states and follow up the issue of e-voting. In this Recommendation the following terms are used with the following meanings:
– authentication: the provision of assurance of the claimed identity of a person or data;
– ballot: the legally recognised means by which the voter can express his or her choice of voting option; – candidate: a voting option consisting of a person and/or a group of persons and/or a political party; – casting of the vote: entering the vote in the ballot box; – e-election or e-referendum: a political election or referendum in which electronic means are used in one or more stages; – electronic ballot box: the electronic means by which the votes are stored pending being counted; – e-voting: an e-election or e-referendum that involves the use of electronic means in at least the casting of the vote; – remote e-voting: e-voting where the casting of the vote is done by a device not controlled by an election official; – sealing: protecting information so that it cannot be used or interpreted without the help of other information or means available only to specific persons or authorities; – vote: the expression of the choice of voting option; – voter: a person who is entitled to cast a vote in a particular election or referendum; – voting channel: the way by which the voter can cast a vote; – voting options: the range of possibilities from which a choice can be made through the casting of the vote in an election or referendum; – voters' register: a list of persons entitled to vote (electors).
Legal standards A. Principles I. Universal suffrage 1. The voter interface of an e-voting system shall be understandable and easily usable. 2. Possible registration requirements for e-voting shall not pose an impediment to the voter participating in e-voting. 3. E-voting systems shall be designed, as far as it is practicable, to maximise the opportunities that such systems can provide for persons with disabilities. 4. Unless channels of remote e-voting are universally accessible, they shall be only an additional and optional means of voting. II. Equal suffrage
5. In relation to any election or referendum, a voter shall be prevented from inserting more than one ballot into the electronic ballot box. A voter shall be authorised to vote only if it has been established that his/her ballot has not yet been inserted into the ballot box. 6. The e-voting system shall prevent any voter from casting a vote by more than one voting channel. 7. Every vote deposited in an electronic ballot box shall be counted, and each vote cast in the election or referendum shall be counted only once. 8. Where electronic and non-electronic voting channels are used in the same election or referendum, there shall be a secure and reliable method to aggregate all votes and to calculate the correct result. III. Free suffrage 9. The organisation of e-voting shall secure the free formation and expression of the voter's opinion and, where required, the personal exercise of the right to vote. 10. The way in which voters are guided through the e-voting process shall be such as to prevent their voting precipitately or without reflection. 11. Voters shall be able to alter their choice at any point in the e-voting process before casting their vote, or to break off the procedure, without their previous choices being recorded or made available to any other person. 12. The e-voting system shall not permit any manipulative influence to be exercised over the voter during the voting. 13. The e-voting system shall provide the voter with a means of participating in an election or referendum without the voter exercising a preference for any of the voting options, for example, by casting a blank vote. 14. The e-voting system shall indicate clearly to the voter when the vote has been cast successfully and when the whole voting procedure has been completed. 15. The e-voting system shall prevent the changing of a vote once that vote has been cast. IV. Secret suffrage 16. E-voting shall be organised in such a way as to exclude at any stage of the voting procedure and, in particular, at voter authentication, anything that would endanger the secrecy of the vote. 17. The e-voting system shall guarantee that votes in the electronic ballot box and votes being counted are, and will remain, anonymous, and that it is not possible to reconstruct a link between the vote and the voter. 18. The e-voting system shall be so designed that the expected number of votes in any electronic ballot box will not allow the result to be linked to individual voters. 19. Measures shall be taken to ensure that the information needed during electronic processing cannot be used to breach the secrecy of the vote. B. Procedural safeguards I. Transparency 20. Member states shall take steps to ensure that voters understand and have confidence in the e-voting system in use. 21. Information on the functioning of an e-voting system shall be made publicly available. 22. Voters shall be provided with an opportunity to practise any new method of e-voting before, and separately from, the moment of casting an electronic vote. 23. Any observers, to the extent permitted by law, shall be able to be present to observe and comment on the eelections, including the establishing of the results. II. Verifiability and accountability 24. The components of the e-voting system shall be disclosed, at least to the competent electoral authorities, as required for verification and certification purposes. 25. Before any e-voting system is introduced, and at appropriate intervals thereafter, and in particular after any changes are made to the system, an independent body, appointed by the electoral authorities, shall verify that the e-voting system is working correctly and that all the necessary security measures have been taken. 26. There shall be the possibility for a recount. Other features of the e-voting system that may influence the correctness of the results shall be verifiable. 27. The e-voting system shall not prevent the partial or complete re-run of an election or a referendum. III. Reliability and security
28. The member state's authorities shall ensure the reliability and security of the e-voting system. 29. All possible steps shall be taken to avoid the possibility of fraud or unauthorised intervention affecting the system during the whole voting process. 30. The e-voting system shall contain measures to preserve the availability of its services during the e-voting process. It shall resist, in particular, malfunction, breakdowns or denial of service attacks. 31. Before any e-election or e-referendum takes place, the competent electoral authority shall satisfy itself that the e-voting system is genuine and operates correctly. 32. Only persons appointed by the electoral authority shall have access to the central infrastructure, the servers and the election data. There shall be clear rules established for such appointments. Critical technical activities shall be carried out by teams of at least two people. The composition of the teams shall be regularly changed. As far as possible, such activities shall be carried out outside election periods. 33. While an electronic ballot box is open, any authorised intervention affecting the system shall be carried out by teams of at least two people, be the subject of a report, be monitored by representatives of the competent electoral authority and any election observers. 34. The e-voting system shall maintain the availability and integrity of the votes. It shall also maintain the confidentiality of the votes and keep them sealed until the counting process. If stored or communicated outside controlled environments, the votes shall be encrypted. 35. Votes and voter information shall remain sealed as long as the data is held in a manner where they can be associated. Authentication information shall be separated from the voter's decision at a pre-defined stage in the eelection or e-referendum.
Operational standards I. Notification 36. Domestic legal provisions governing an e-election or e-referendum shall provide for clear timetables concerning all stages of the election or referendum, both before and after the election or referendum. 37. The period in which an electronic vote can be cast shall not begin before the notification of an election or a referendum. Particularly with regard to remote e-voting, the period shall be defined and made known to the public well in advance of the start of voting. 38. The voters shall be informed, well in advance of the start of voting, in clear and simple language, of the way in which the e-voting will be organised, and any steps a voter may have to take in order to participate and vote. II. Voters 39. There shall be a voters' register which is regularly updated. The voter shall be able to check, as a minimum, the information which is held about him/her on the register, and request corrections. 40. The possibility of creating an electronic register and introducing a mechanism allowing online application for voter registration and, if applicable, for application to use e-voting, shall be considered. If participation in e-voting requires a separate application by the voter and/or additional steps, an electronic, and, where possible, interactive procedure shall be considered. 41. In cases where there is an overlap between the period for voter registration and the voting period, provision for appropriate voter authentication shall be made. III. Candidates 42. The possibility of introducing online candidate nomination may be considered. 43. A list of candidates that is generated and made available electronically shall also be publicly available by other means. IV. Voting 44. It is particularly important, where remote e-voting takes place while polling stations are open, that the system shall be so designed that it prevents any voter from voting more than once. 45. Remote e-voting may start and/or end at an earlier time than the opening of any polling station. Remote evoting shall not continue after the end of the voting period at polling stations. 46. For every e-voting channel, support and guidance arrangements on voting procedures shall be set up for, and be available to, the voter. In the case of remote e-voting, such arrangements shall also be available through a different, widely available communication channel.
47. There shall be equality in the manner of presentation of all voting options on the device used for casting an electronic vote. 48. The electronic ballot by which an electronic vote is cast shall be free from any information about voting options, other than that strictly required for casting the vote. The e-voting system shall avoid the display of other messages that may influence the voters' choice. 49. If it is decided that information about voting options will be accessible from the e-voting site, this information shall be presented with equality. 50. Before casting a vote using a remote e-voting system, voters' attention shall be explicitly drawn to the fact that the e-election or e-referendum in which they are submitting their decision by electronic means is a real election or referendum. In case of tests, participants shall have their attention drawn explicitly to the fact that they are not participating in a real election or referendum and shall – when tests are continued at election times – at the same time be invited to cast their ballot by the voting channel(s) available for that purpose. 51. A remote e-voting system shall not enable the voter to be in possession of a proof of the content of the vote cast. 52. In a supervised environment, the information on the vote shall disappear from the visual, audio or tactile display used by the voter to cast the vote as soon as it has been cast. Where a paper proof of the electronic vote is provided to the voter at a polling station, the voter shall not be able to show it to any other person, or take this proof outside of the polling station. V. Results 53. The e-voting system shall not allow the disclosure of the number of votes cast for any voting option until after the closure of the electronic ballot box. This information shall not be disclosed to the public until after the end of the voting period. 54. The e-voting system shall prevent processing information on votes cast within deliberately chosen sub-units that could reveal individual voters' choices. 55. Any decoding required for the counting of the votes shall be carried out as soon as practicable after the closure of the voting period. 56. When counting the votes, representatives of the competent electoral authority shall be able to participate in, and any observers able to observe, the count. 57. A record of the counting process of the electronic votes shall be kept, including information about the start and end of, and the persons involved in, the count. 58. In the event of any irregularity affecting the integrity of votes, the affected votes shall be recorded as such. VI. Audit 59. The e-voting system shall be auditable. 60. The conclusions drawn from the audit process shall be applied in future elections and referendums. Technical requirements The design of an e-voting system shall be underpinned by a comprehensive assessment of the risks involved in the successful completion of the particular election or referendum. The e-voting system shall include the appropriate safeguards, based on this risk assessment, to manage the specific risks identified. Service failure or service degradation shall be kept within pre-defined limits. A. Accessibility 61. Measures shall be taken to ensure that the relevant software and services can be used by all voters and, if necessary, provide access to alternative ways of voting. 62. Users shall be involved in the design of e-voting systems, particularly to identify constraints and test ease of use at each main stage of the development process. 63. Users shall be supplied, whenever required and possible, with additional facilities, such as special interfaces or other equivalent resources, such as personal assistance. User facilities shall comply as much as possible with the guidelines set out in the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI). 64. Consideration shall be given, when developing new products, to their compatibility with existing ones, including those using technologies designed to help people with disabilities. 65. The presentation of the voting options shall be optimised for the voter. B. Interoperability
66. Open standards shall be used to ensure that the various technical components or services of an e-voting system, possibly derived from a variety of sources, interoperate. 67. At present, the Election Markup Language (EML) standard is such an open standard and in order to guarantee interoperability, EML shall be used whenever possible for e-election and e-referendum applications. The decision of when to adopt EML is a matter for member states. The EML standard valid at the time of adoption of this recommendation, and supporting documentation are available on the Council of Europe website. 68. In cases which imply specific election or referendum data requirements, a localisation procedure shall be used to accommodate these needs. This would allow for extending or restricting the information to be provided, whilst still remaining compatible with the generic version of EML. The recommended procedure is to use structured schema languages and pattern languages. C. Systems operation (for the central infrastructure and clients in controlled environments) 69. The competent electoral authorities shall publish an official list of the software used in an e-election or ereferendum. Member states may exclude from this list data protection software for security reasons. At the very least it shall indicate the software used, the versions, its date of installation and a brief description. A procedure shall be established for regularly installing updated versions and corrections of the relevant protection software. It shall be possible to check the state of protection of the voting equipment at any time. 70. Those responsible for operating the equipment shall draw up a contingency procedure. Any backup system shall conform to the same standards and requirements as the original system. 71. Sufficient backup arrangements shall be in place and be permanently available to ensure that voting proceeds smoothly. The staff concerned shall be ready to intervene rapidly according to a procedure drawn up by the competent electoral authorities. 72. Those responsible for the equipment shall use special procedures to ensure that during the polling period the voting equipment and its use satisfy requirements. The backup services shall be regularly supplied with monitoring protocols. 73. Before each election or referendum, the equipment shall be checked and approved in accordance with a protocol drawn up by the competent electoral authorities. The equipment shall be checked to ensure that it complies with technical specifications. The findings shall be submitted to the competent electoral authorities. 74. All technical operations shall be subject to a formal control procedure. Any substantial changes to key equipment shall be notified. 75. Key e-election or e-referendum equipment shall be located in a secure area and that area shall, throughout the election or referendum period, be guarded against interference of any sort and from any person. During the election or referendum period a physical disaster recovery plan shall be in place. Furthermore, any data retained after the election or referendum period shall be stored securely. 76. Where incidents that could threaten the integrity of the system occur, those responsible for operating the equipment shall immediately inform the competent electoral authorities, who will take the necessary steps to mitigate the effects of the incident. The level of incident which shall be reported shall be specified in advance by the electoral authorities. D. Security I. General requirements (referring to pre-voting, voting, and post-voting stages) 77. Technical and organisational measures shall be taken to ensure that no data will be permanently lost in the event of a breakdown or a fault affecting the e-voting system. 78. The e-voting system shall maintain the privacy of individuals. Confidentiality of voters' registers stored in or communicated by the e-voting system shall be maintained. 79. The e-voting system shall perform regular checks to ensure that its components operate in accordance with its technical specifications and that its services are available. 80. The e-voting system shall restrict access to its services, depending on the user identity or the user role, to those services explicitly assigned to this user or role. User authentication shall be effective before any action can be carried out. 81. The e-voting system shall protect authentication data so that unauthorised entities cannot misuse, intercept, modify, or otherwise gain knowledge of all or some of this data. In uncontrolled environments, authentication based on cryptographic mechanisms is advisable. 82. Identification of voters and candidates in a way that they can unmistakably be distinguished from other persons (unique identification) shall be ensured.
83. E-voting systems shall generate reliable and sufficiently detailed observation data so that election observation can be carried out. The time at which an event generated observation data shall be reliably determinable. The authenticity, availability and integrity of the data shall be maintained. 84. The e-voting system shall maintain reliable synchronised time sources. The accuracy of the time source shall be sufficient to maintain time marks for audit trails and observations data, as well as for maintaining the time limits for registration, nomination, voting, or counting. 85. Electoral authorities have overall responsibility for compliance with these security requirements, which shall be assessed by independent bodies. II. Requirements in pre-voting stages (and for data communicated to the voting stage) 86. The authenticity, availability and integrity of the voters' registers and lists of candidates shall be maintained. The source of the data shall be authenticated. Provisions on data protection shall be respected. 87. The fact that candidate nomination and, if required, the decision of the candidate and/or the competent electoral authority to accept a nomination has happened within the prescribed time limits shall be ascertainable. 88. The fact that voter registration has happened within the prescribed time limits shall be ascertainable. III. Requirements in the voting stage (and for data communicated during post-election stages) 89. The integrity of data communicated from the pre-voting stage (e.g. voters' registers and lists of candidates) shall be maintained. Data-origin authentication shall be carried out. 90. It shall be ensured that the e-voting system presents an authentic ballot to the voter. In the case of remote evoting, the voter shall be informed about the means to verify that a connection to the official server has been established and that the authentic ballot has been presented. 91. The fact that a vote has been cast within the prescribed time limits shall be ascertainable. 92. Sufficient means shall be provided to ensure that the systems that are used by the voters to cast the vote can be protected against influence that could modify the vote. 93. Residual information holding the voter's decision or the display of the voter's choice shall be destroyed after the vote has been cast. In the case of remote e-voting, the voter shall be provided with information on how to delete, where that is possible, traces of the vote from the device used to cast the vote. 94. The e-voting system shall at first ensure that a user who tries to vote is eligible to vote. The e-voting system shall authenticate the voter and shall ensure that only the appropriate number of votes per voter is cast and stored in the electronic ballot box. 95. The e-voting system shall ensure that the voter's choice is accurately represented in the vote and that the sealed vote enters the electronic ballot box. 96. After the end of the e-voting period, no voter shall be allowed to gain access to the e-voting system. However, the acceptance of electronic votes into the electronic ballot box shall remain open for a sufficient period of time to allow for any delays in the passing of messages over the e-voting channel. IV. Requirements in post-voting stages 97. The integrity of data communicated during the voting stage (e.g. votes, voters' registers, lists of candidates) shall be maintained. Data-origin authentication shall be carried out. 98. The counting process shall accurately count the votes. The counting of votes shall be reproducible. 99. The e-voting system shall maintain the availability and integrity of the electronic ballot box and the output of the counting process as long as required. E. Audit I. General 100. The audit system shall be designed and implemented as part of the e-voting system. Audit facilities shall be present on different levels of the system: logical, technical and application. 101. End-to-end auditing of an e-voting system shall include recording, providing monitoring facilities and providing verification facilities. Audit systems with the features set out in sections II – V below shall therefore be used to meet these requirements. II. Recording 102. The audit system shall be open and comprehensive, and actively report on potential issues and threats. 103. The audit system shall record times, events and actions, including:
a. all voting-related information, including the number of eligible voters, the number of votes cast, the number of invalid votes, the counts and recounts, etc.; b. any attacks on the operation of the e-voting system and its communications infrastructure; c. system failures, malfunctions and other threats to the system. III. Monitoring 104. The audit system shall provide the ability to oversee the election or referendum and to verify that the results and procedures are in accordance with the applicable legal provisions. 105. Disclosure of the audit information to unauthorised persons shall be prevented. 106. The audit system shall maintain voter anonymity at all times. IV. Verifiability 107. The audit system shall provide the ability to cross-check and verify the correct operation of the e-voting system and the accuracy of the result, to detect voter fraud and to prove that all counted votes are authentic and that all votes have been counted. 108. The audit system shall provide the ability to verify that an e-election or e-referendum has complied with the applicable legal provisions, the aim being to verify that the results are an accurate representation of the authentic votes. V. Other 109. The audit system shall be protected against attacks which may corrupt, alter or lose records in the audit system. 110. Member states shall take adequate steps to ensure that the confidentiality of any information obtained by any person while carrying out auditing functions is guaranteed. F. Certification 111. Member states shall introduce certification processes that allow for any ICT (Information and Communication Technology) component to be tested and certified as being in conformity with the technical requirements described in this recommendation. 112. In order to enhance international co-operation and avoid duplication of work, member states shall consider whether their respective agencies shall join, if they have not done so already, relevant international mutual recognition arrangements such as the European Cooperation for Accreditation (EA), the International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation (ILAC), the International Accreditation Forum (IAF) and other bodies of a similar nature.