Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Auditability of e-voting strengthened by vote receipts

Image: FreeStockPhoto

Auditability is one of the main characteristics of a safe and reliable e-voting system. Some say that the main advantage of manual voting over electronic voting is that there is physical evidence of each and every ballot cast, but the truth is that the best electoral technology not only stores the electronic record of each vote, but also includes a printed version of it. This makes e-voting even more auditable than any election carried out through manual methods.

A Voter-Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT), or vote receipt, is the printed version of the ballot cast by a citizen over the touchscreen on the voting machine. Voters can check that the vote marked on the vote receipt matches the one given on the machine before introducing it into a box. The stored vote receipts will be used to manually verify electronic results when closing audits are performed. This way,
manual voting’s possibility to physically account for every vote is combined with all the benefits of e-voting.

2004 marked the first time that vote receipts were used in a national election, when the referendum to remove President Hugo Chavez in Venezuela was carried out. The addition of vote receipts to the automated electoral solution provided by Smartmatic was essential to monitor and confirm results from this electoral exercise. Later in 2007, the citizens of Curacao were able to exert suffrage through
electronic voting using Smartmatic’s auditable solution in a speedy and secure way, backed up by vote receipts to ensure complete auditability. Of the 74,342 registered votes at the election, not one was voided due to technology failures.

A robust e-voting platform already has many benefits that make it dependable: the protection of voter anonymity, the impossibility of it to be tampered with due to its strong data encryption software, and the speed of its automated precinct count, which yields results the same day the election is carried out. However, when it comes to shielding democracy, there is no such thing as too much security. Auditing must be done at all instances, including if possible one where electors can participate and serve as witnesses of the accuracy of results. This way, the exercise of democracy is validated not only by international representatives who act as electoral monitors, but also by the citizens themselves.