[Election-access] Interesting article
jeninems at wowway.com
Thu Apr 5 12:42:17 EDT 2012
Thanks Paul Edwards for sharing this. Thoughts?
This is more like where I think we need to be looking in the united states
but I am mostly sharing for the sake of interest.
VEC develops tablet-based e-voting system
Does away with previous systems due to a lack of transparency
. Chloe Herrick (Computerworld)
. 05 April, 2012 11:00
The Victorian Electoral Commission (VEC) has flagged plans to develop an
open source e-voting system for the next state election in November 2014,
doing away with the touchscreen-based kiosks it used in 2010.
VEC project manager IT branch, Craig Burton, told Computerworld Australia
the commission has built the new system, which will be implemented at early
voting centres for the 2014 election and be tested at potential by-elections
The previous systems, used by the VEC in both 2006 and 2010, were built by a
Spanish-based company called Scytl, which specialises in e-voting solutions,
but there were issues around transparency.
"We decided not to go ahead with them for two reasons, firstly because the
solution they provide isn't universally verifiable and secondly, the sorts
of deep customisations they had to do for us here in Australia took their
commercial products away from their off-the-shelf offering which meant we
weren't going to get any free maintenance and support of the system," Burton
The new system, now in prototype, was built by the VEC from scratch -
something the agency has not done previously - and is also universally
According to Burton, universal verifiability was developed in the late 2000s
to overcome problems with voting systems in Europe and the United States.
"With a voting system which has the means of universal verifiability, it
doesn't matter what goes wrong with the software in the system or any of the
computer hardware. All the way from the beginning to the end, the
verification system will pick up if something is wrong.
"It requires someone to perform one of around six different kinds of checks
which is mostly aimed at the voters but can also be done by our staff."
Burton likened the checks to that of a banking statement to ensure the
transactions completed have been accurately communicated between the user
and the bank but said the process with voting was much more complex due to
the secrecy required.
"Normally you can't do that at elections because your vote is secret and
once you give the vote to the electoral commission we're not to know it was
yours so you can't exactly send someone a print out of their vote at the end
of the month," Burton said.
"We felt the system in 2010 wasn't transparent enough and e-voting in
general seems to be challenged by this problem so the paper-voting system is
very transparent, you can look at almost any aspect of the entire
paper-voting process and can observe it, but with e-voting generally you
have to outsource the election to a commercial provider.
"At least with a transparent system that is universally verifiable anybody
can challenge the system at a couple of key choke points to confirm that
it's behaving itself."
The new tablet-based system (most likely to be Android, due to issues
experienced by the prototype on the iPad) will be a fully offline HTML5
application run by a Web server but will also have a paper aspect with the
printing and scanning of receipts.
Voters will be issued a two-sided receipt the size of a postcard on entry to
the polling place. This is then read by a ballot marker which is tethered to
the tablet using a quick response (QR) code on the receipt.
Voters then fill out their ballot using the tablet which prints the numbered
information onto the receipt and prints out.
The voter then takes the receipt, which has preference numbers on the left
hand side and candidates on the right, and can tear the receipt down the
perforated middle and take home their vote.
"For blind voters who can't use the touchscreen type interaction with the
browser, they'll instead use the other option we've developed which is an
HTML5 Web page but it's a single Web page with 12 keys on it like a phone
keypad," Burton said.
"There is then a plastic kind of adhesive screen protector that sits over
the top of the screen and has little bumps on it for each of the 12 keys
that a blind person can run their fingers over.
"The idea is that with a pair of headphones plugged into the tablet, the
HTML5 Web page will sense what buttons you're pushing and you'll be guided
though an entire telephone voting standard type audio voting experience."
With current legislation, the new system will only be used by the same
categories as the election in 2010 - those who are vision impaired or blind,
motor impaired and those who cannot read English, which encompasses about
However, the VEC will be pushing for amendments which will enable the system
to scale up to be used by all early voters - about a million - as the
numbers of early voters continues to increase.
The change in legislation would also enable the increase in early voting
centres from 111 to 245 -200 based in Victoria and 45 interstate and
"It's quite low tech because you're dealing with paper, but it is an
electronic system and the VEC doesn't get any paper ballots back to count.
Once they've taken a scan of the left hand side [then] that's all they need.
There's a code and the VEC can use the code to restore my vote back to the
official ballot and then it can count them," Burton said.
jeninems at wowway.com
More information about the Election-access