Complete guide to electronic voting

Electronic voting is the future of elections. In Italy, electronic voting has been introduced for general elections, but security and legality are important issues. Companies are also adopting electronic voting to improve efficiency and participation. In fact, the Eligo platform offers solutions for online voting, ensuring security and privacy.

Democracy in the digital age: the future of elections is through electronic voting

A few years ago a very interesting book about the future of politics came out, written by Jamie Susskind, a young lawyer with a research background at Harvard. In the book in question, Future Politics, Susskind seems to have no doubt: the future of politics will consist precisely in regulating its relationship with technology.

One of the most important debates in recent years, including in Italy, concerns precisely the introduction of technology into elections-political and private-through electronic voting.

How can electronic voting be a viable alternative to paper-based voting?
What are the benefits, both in politics and for private entities, that could result from its proper implementation?

Let’s delve into it together.

What is electronic voting, what types exist, and in what areas is it used?

By definition, electronic voting, also known as e-voting, is electoral voting cast through electronic and computer technologies.

This generic definition declines depending on the technology used into n macro types of electronic voting and depending on the mode:

  • i-voting, refers to the use of the Internet to cast and/or transmit votes;
  • direct-recording electronics (DRE) voting machine, the voter votes by pressing a button or through a touch screen that displays the ballot;
  • voter-verified paper audit trail, a paper ballot is printed for each vote by the device so that voters can verify that their vote was cast correctly;
  • optical scan voting systems, optical scan voting systems that combine paper with electronic devices and maintain a tangible ballot. (Source: aceproject)

In the private sector, voting via the Internet is now accepted and provided for in current regulations; in Europe, for example, the EC already came out in favor of electronic voting for private companies in 2007.

The current debate on e-voting is particularly concerned with the political discipline, where electronic voting systems involving the use of the Internet and software deputized to store data and count the preferences expressed by voters are struggling to take hold mainly for reasons of transparency and security.

In the political arena, that of online voting has been an open issue for many years now and returns to the forefront with each election round. It is of particular interest to all out-of-towners, who, with the introduction of electronic voting, would see their active participation in the democratic life of their country made easier, and not by a small margin.

Regulatory framework and general elections: Italy kicks off electronic voting

It is early July 2021 news that Minister of the Interior Luciana Lamorgese and Minister for Technological Innovation and Digital Transition Vittorio Colao signed the decree identifying the implementation modalities for the experimentation of electronic voting for which a 1 million euro fund has been allocated.

Electronic voting will have its official test at the upcoming general and European elections and for referendums and will affect precisely the 7.5 million Italian voters abroad, including 4.5 million Italian voters abroad.

In fact, this first trial of electronic voting, will cover a wider audience, allowing remote voting even for those who – quoting the decree – “for reasons of work, study or medical treatment are in a municipality in a region other than that of the municipality in whose electoral rolls they are registered.”

In Italy, but also at the level of the European Union, there is no precise technical norm that establishes the standards to be followed for the design and implementation of an online voting system. Undoubtedly one of the reference documents is the Recommendation Rec (2017)5 adopted by the European Council. However, it is crucial to point out that in this document reference is made to universal suffrage votingand that some concepts and requirements are not applicable in private voting.

In the case of private entities, the voting system must be consistent with the entity’s Bylaws or Election Regulations, providing a delicate balance between the technological needs of security and the operational needs of cost, voting flow, and simplicity of expression of the latter. Instead, the usability-level guidelines defined in the Nation Institute for Standard Technology’s Voluntary Voting System Guidelines document are relevant.

Security and legality of electronic voting

Electronic voting is definitely a tool that can make elections faster and cheaper while motivating citizens to greater participation in democratic life.

In the past, however, there have been incidents that have cast doubt on the efficiency and security of the electronic voting system; in fact, Italy is not the first country to start a simulation with this voting mode.

In France, for example, citizens living abroad had already been allowed to vote electronically for legislative elections since 2012, until 2017 when the state decided to suspend electronic voting due to the danger of cyber attacks. Since it cannot guarantee the secrecy and isolation typical of a voting booth, the risk of this procedure is in fact cyber crime, such as possible theft of voters’ personal data or attempts at computer tampering with the results.

Before France, Norway and Germany had also attempted to introduce electronic voting, but both nations had later abandoned the project due to security concerns and the danger of cyber attacks.

Therefore, it is understandable that some countries are skeptical about whether or not to acquire the e-voting system.To address these doubts, the Ministry has provided a simulation phase that will have no legal value and will be used to ensure the proper functioning of the e-voting and e-voting system.

Let us go into detail.

Online voting: the stages of the trial

The implementing decree calls for a simulation phase of electronic voting “such as to reproduce, albeit in a small way, all the stages and moments of a real electoral event.” in which a significant sample of voters will be involved before the actual testing.

This is to verify the effective operation of the voting platform, which will have to ensure high security standards to protect voters’ personal data and prevent possible computer tampering with the results.

If this simulation phase is successful, proving to be functional and free of critical issues, we will enter the actual testing phase.

How electronic voting will take place

In the experimental phase, electronic voting will be the effective legal alternative to traditional voting and can be cast through a web application that “complies with the usability and accessibility requirements of the law.”

Any voter or voter-who has previously chosen by a set date to cast his or her vote online-will be able to e-vote through a computer, tablet or smartphone owned by him or her or through electronic stations provided by the Election Offices.

Online voting: a trend destined for private realities as well

The online voting trend, however, is not limited to political voting, but also concerns-as mentioned at the beginning of this article-an increasing number of private entities, which have recognized the great advantages of electronic voting, especially in terms of savings and participation.

In a world where almost everything now goes digital, why should the voting process remain stationary with pen and paper?

Take the case of acompany: the adoption of electronic voting not only gives a strong signal of innovation to employees and stakeholders, but also allows all employees to participate in voting from any location or even while away. The centralized management of each vote also provides significant savings in both time and money, representing a great plus especially for larger and more structured companies.

The inclusion of all members in decision-making is also a must for entities such as Associations and Cooperatives, which recognize electronic voting as a way to boost engagement and increase electoral participation in a simple, fast and transparent way.

While electronic voting is a valuable tool for optimizing management time and saving on election costs, the online voting system must ensure efficiency, privacy, security, and comply with current regulations.

  • A user-friendly platform incentivizes participation. One of the basic requirements that must characterize the platform deputed to electronic voting is to be fully responsive: the more intuitive and user-friendly the online voting system is, the more likely it is to increase member participation in elections and meetings.
  • Secrecy of electronic voting. As Article 48 of the Italian Constitution states, “Voting is personal and equal, free and secret.” and so must e-voting be. A voter who decides to express his or her preference through e-voting must be assured that this happens secretly, in complete anonymity.
  • Security of online voting. It is also essential to rely on an online voting platform that provides constant monitoring of the security and stability of the system to ensure the protection of voter data and circumscribe possible external tampering with the results.
  • Online Voting Privacy and GDPR Compliance. Apart from the IT security ensured by the electronic voting system, it is crucial to ensure proper formal and operational data management. In addition to complying with all of the GDPR’s own principles on data management (more on Privacy) there must be an appointment of external data controllers. In addition, first- and second-level privacy notices must be available to the data subject (voter) and it must be clearly specified whether the data provided by the voter will be used only for electronic voting or other purposes.

What Eligo can do for online voting

Eligo is the certified and professional online voting platform created to improve and simplify the electoral life of any entity, be it a company, association or cooperative.

The versatility of the platform allows it to handle all types of electronic voting – online, at the polling station or hybrid – and offer the best solution for all organizations, meeting the specific needs of all clients (learn more about Eligo – Voting).

The user friendly and responsive interface ensures high turnout for each reality as every voter can express his or her preference conveniently via pc, tablet or smartphone and allows for optimized management time and polling.

Eligo also offers free consultancy for election commission assistance, giving all clients the opportunity to seek support from specialists who have always handled online voting professionally.

Preserving anonymity and ensuring the uniqueness of electronic voting is, as we saw in the previous section, another key feature of online voting platforms. It is precisely for this reason that Eligo separates the voter-vote information altogether (Privacy and Cloud): the fact that a user has voted is associated with the credentials entered, while the voting expression is sent, anonymously and encrypted, to the ballot box.

In addition, the adoption of the highest standards of cybersecurity (Legality) and encryption certifies the security of the electronic vote cast (Security).

A guarantee, that of Eligo, given both by the technical characteristics of the platform and the established procedures adopted by our specialists.

Eligo offers the right balance of simplicity, security, and legal validity in one platform, and allows users to choose the identification and voting process that best suits the specific needs of each entity.