Monday, October 14, 2019

Election experts warn against RFID-based voting systems

A voting system which uses Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology to store electronic votes has been under scrutiny after election experts questioned its capacity to safeguard the integrity of election data. 

Though the voting system had been tested in a few Argentine jurisdictions, academics from around the world had not had a real chance to analyze it in detail until authorities from the Democratic Republic of Congo decided to use a similar system for the long-delayed elections of December, 2018. The decision to automate the controversial elections using an untested system drew criticism from U.S. diplomats.

According to experts from The Sentry, it is possible to manipulate the information the RFID chip contains, since the use of this unique identifier technology and radio communications give off signals that can be easily detected at distances greater than expected. Experts recommend election officials to refrain from implementing this type of technology. 

RFID technology is well known for its usefulness in tracking inventories, but its use extends to other industries, from bookstores and apparel to health and transportation. The main benefit of having RFIDs is that it allows quick communication with remote sensors. Nonetheless, however useful RFID may be for certain industries, elections are an entirely different ballgame. The capacity to allow remote sensors to read the information it contains opens the door for bad actors to hack the votes. 

An RFID-based system was ruled out in Israel in 2010 as it was considered unsafe. Researchers Yossef Oren and Avishai Wool, from the Tel-Aviv University, demonstrated that the secret of the vote was compromised with such type of systems. In their paper, they “show how the proposed system can be completely compromised using low-cost relay attacks. Our attacks allow an adversary to read out all votes already cast into the ballot box, suppress the votes of one or several voters, rewrite votes at will and even completely disqualify all votes in a single voting station. Our attacks are easy to mount, very difficult to detect, and compromise both the confidentiality and the integrity of the election system.”

The future of this technology is unknown. For now, only a few Argentine provinces have dared to use it. The elections in Congo, which led to weeks of post-election violence and political unrest, are a testament to what a poorly designed election system can do to the legitimacy of elections.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Election modernization moves forward in Argentina

Argentina held its Primary, Open, Simultaneous and Mandatory elections on Sunday, August 11. The primaries determine the candidates for the October 27, general elections. In addition to voting for president and vice president, voters will elect 130 federal deputies and 24 national senators next October.

During these 2019 primary elections, technology helped streamline unofficial results. Optical scanners were distributed to approximately 73% of polling centers to help digitize tallying reports and then transmit the information for further processing and publication. The technology deployed was critical in achieving three important feats:

1.       Delivery of provisional results in record time. The provisional tally reached 87.83% of telegrams computed by midnight, a record in the Argentine elections.

2.       Increased transparency. 88% of the provisional results were made public on Election Day. This is a major feat considering that in 2015, only 21.3% were processed on the day of the election. Political parties, authorities, and voters were able to monitor the entire process from end to end.

3.       Improved accuracy. Official results of the primaries (just released), in the 24 provinces of Argentina, confirmed the accuracy the provisional count. The difference between the provisional and the final count did not amount to more than 1% in any region.

The delivery of the results in record time, together with the confirmation by official results of the precision and transparency of provisional data published at midnight on Election Day, shows how technology can assist election officials in improving the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of its elections.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

91% of Filipinos favor automated elections in the future

A 2019 Pulse Asia survey showed that 4 of 5 Filipinos are satisfied with the conduct of the May 2019 polls. A significant majority of voters expressed "big trust" in the results, and 87 percent of respondents reported being satisfied with the use of electronic voting machines in the Philippines.

These results mimic another survey conducted in June by The Second Quarter 2019 Social Weather Survey (SWS) among 1,200 adults eligible to vote. The SWS classified the satisfaction rating of Filipinos with the 2019 elections as excellent.

While the Pulse Asia Survey was commissioned by Democracy Watch and Stratbase Albert Del Rosario Institute; the SWS initiative was non-commissioned and released as a public service.

Evaluating the voters’ satisfaction with the automation of their polls and the use of election technology (since 2010) was a critical segment of both surveys. Vote counting machines are in use across all the Philippines, where more than 92,000 electronic voting devices are deployed in nearly 37,000 polling places.

Some of the most significant findings include:
·         94% of respondents said it was easy to vote using the vote-counting machine (VCM)
·         91% said they “would like to see automated voting continue in future elections.”
·         87% said they “were satisfied with the automated polling system or counting of votes through (VCM)”
·         86% said they consider “the election results are believable.”
·         74% believe “no cheating occurred” in their areas
·         64% believe “there was no vote-buying” in their areas

Ronnie Holmes, Pulse Asia president, noted that “a large number of people in favor of continuing automated elections may be due to the ease of voting and quick release of results.
The vast majority of Filipinos voters trust the results of their country’s recent elections.”

Overcoming election irregularities

The Social Weather Survey found fewer Filipino voters saying they personally witnessed, or have knowledge about, election irregularities such as vote-buying, harassment of voters, flying voters, cheating in the counting of votes, bribing not to vote, and use of violence on election day.

According to the answers in the sample, those who personally witnessed vote-buying fell from 19% in June 2016 to 10% in 2019. At the same time, those who read or heard about it from reliable sources fell from 23% to 15%

Furthermore, the impartiality of the automated elections system has resulted in more peaceful elections in the Philippines, and the voters are more aware of these added benefits of election technology in the country.