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Friday, December 02, 2005

World governmental electronic voting experiments)

I realised this study between August and October 2004(last years). Due to the nature of the changing Web and political world’s events, many hyperlinks and realities have changed since, many of the hyperlinks cited do not exist anymore. Nevertheless, I believe that the conclusions and comments made in this study are more relevant than ever.

1.1 World governmental e-voting experiments

We studied e-voting activities in governmental contexts around the world and were surprised to discover that a wide variety of implementation and delivery scenarios are currently being tested. Experiments in e-polling, telepolling and televoting delivery scenarios are being carried out around the globe. In order to facilitate our analysis of these experiments, we focused our findings on the term e-voting, which is the parent term for the family of all electronic voting activities. (1)

This paper does not describe in detail the numerous implementation scenarios experienced by all these countries. And if we were to do that, it would be a task of monumental proportions since the possibilities are quite numerous. In order to understand the magnitude of the possibilities (136 combinations), we would like to share an e-voting taxonomy template that was used by Lawrence Pratchett (2) of De Montfort University for the famous British e-voting implementation effort.

Figure 1 : Electronic Voting Options Taxonomy

Taxonomie des options de votations électroniques

Source : Saidi, Nasser, e-Government: Technology for Good Governance, Development and Democracy in the MENA countries

Due to our proximity to the United States and the media fiasco of the last US presidential elections, it is impossible to ignore the difficulty that the United States has had with e-voting and especially with electronic voting machines. As a result, we naturally tend to believe that e-voting is a losing proposal.

However, the international – and particularly European – experience of e-voting paints quite a different picture. To grasp what is being done and to evaluate the success of international experiments, we invite you to consult Appendix 1 found at the end of this document. We have collected numerous news reports (3) that comment on the experiments under way in various countries around the world. We have classified these experiments as negative, neutral or positive. Negative experiments include those that were cancelled or qualified as negative by observers or commentators. Neutral experiences include experiments that were completed but whose success or failure we were unable to verify, or experiments that are still in the project phase. Finally, positive experiences are the ones that commentators or governments have deemed a success. Our findings are summarized in the figure below.

Figure 2 : World e-Voting Experiments

World e-voting experiments

1.1.1 Difficulties

Of the international implementation scenarios studied, we can outline some issues that have either facilitated or hindered the experiences. But before we begin, we would like to caution the reader that many particular local conditions may accentuate or diminish the impact of an e-voting implementation. For example, the socio-economic conditions, political history, geopolitical situation, technological awareness of local citizens, the public relations that accompanied the changes, the various channels adopted and the technologies themselves may all contribute to the success or failure of an implementation. This section therefore sets out our point of view on certain criteria that we feel might have had an impact on implementation worldwide. Single channel

Let’s start by describing certain difficulties that have been encountered by some jurisdictions. In the United States, the act of voting seems to have been a problematic issue for quite some time. There are no cohesive national standards on the electoral process and every state and electoral jurisdiction apparently chooses the electoral process that it judges appropriate for their constituents. Furthermore, many jurisdictions employ electronic voting machines for either the casting or counting of votes. Voting machine providers in the United-States are dominated by the now infamous Diebold (4) and almost exclusively rely on proprietary software that tabulates the vote. They are also deprived of a paper trail or audit mechanism that could be of use in the event of a judiciary recounting of the ballots. It is also important to note that in terms of a delivery mechanism, constituents were almost always offered only a single channel to vote. These simple facts have provoked an impressive array of protests against e-voting. It is also important to note that e-voting does not involve merely electronic voting machines and that voting machine software could be made available for the security expertise and scrutiny of dedicated electoral specialists. No source code access

Another jurisdiction that appears to have implementation troubles is Ireland. Although, the government has stated that it will seek to implement e-voting at a later stage, their commission on electronic voting scrapped the June 2004 experiments (system provided by Nedap/Powervote (5)) for the following reasons:

•“Insufficient system testing: testing carried out to date is insufficient to establish the reliability of the proposed system.

•Lack of time for software testing: there is not sufficient time before the June 2004 elections for fully testing the final version of the software, which is not available for testing at this point in time.

•No access to source code: the Commission did not obtain access to the full source code and there is not sufficient time before the elections to allow a full code review.

•Accuracy cannot be certified: as the final version of the software proposed for use at the forthcoming elections is as yet unknown, it is impossible for anyone to certify its accuracy.

•Secrecy concerns: the Commission still has a number of concerns about vote secrecy (for example, the voting machine “beeps” as preferences are being selected, and it could be possible for an insider to overcome the randomness of the method used for the storage of votes in the ballot module).” (6)

In light of these two examples, it seems important to:

•Have the opportunity to test the electoral systems and software

•Have access to the source code of the electoral software

•Provide a multi-channel electoral process mechanism

•Prepare the voters to gain their acceptance of the technology

•Provide an audit mechanism should a judiciary recounting of the ballots be required

1.1.2 Successes code access

What can be learned from the successes or positive aspects of world e-voting implementation experiments? We would first like to discuss the Indian and Brazilian experiences. These countries have immense populations (Brazil 115 million and India 675 million voters) and both nations also have illiteracy issues within their populations. They opted for kiosk e-voting and each country developed its own software.


    The Voting Machine

“At each step, the technicians improved on the system, mobilizing resources from the Brazilian National Institute of Space Research, INPE, and the armed forces. The programming language is completely encrypted. In places where electricity is not available, car batteries are used. The operating panel, with numerical keys from 0 to 9 displays the 3X4 picture of the candidate once their number is keyed in. The system covers state and federal representatives and senators, governors and presidential candidates. Once the voting is completed, the machine plays a tune to let the voter know that the job is done. This system became totally the norm at the current elections, 2002.” (7)

    The software was developed by Unisys:

“Unisys developed the Windows CE .NET–based voting machines in Portuguese in approximately six months. It started the project using Windows CE .NET 3.0, then, in the middle of the project, migrated easily to Windows CE .NET 4.1 when that version of the operating system became available. ‘We moved to Windows CE .NET 4.1 because it met all the technical requirements for our solution,’ says Luis Gaviao, Unisys Lead Project Manager. Once the system was ready, it was submitted to the technology commissions of Brazil's political parties for a thorough analysis, which confirmed the integrity of the Windows CE .NET–based voting machines. (…)To meet the Brazilian government's national security requirements, Microsoft also provided TSE with access to the Windows CE source code so that all the parties could examine the code to ensure the integrity of the system. ‘Microsoft was extremely helpful in opening the Windows CE source code to provide the access that we requested,’ says Paulo Camarão, Chief Information Officer for the Tribunal Superior Eleitoral. The political parties had access to the Windows CE Shared Source code and stated that there was no possibility of fraud or manipulation within this system. Prevention of fraud was one of the primary benefits of this technology.”


“The e-voting machines (EVMs), which were designed by the Election Commission in collaboration with two government-owned companies (Bharat Electronics and Electronics Corporation of India), cost about EUR 160 each. According to the Election Commission, the portable, battery-operated machines are ‘easy to operate,’ ‘reliable,’ ‘tamper-proof and error free.’ The machines were tested for the first time in 16 constituencies during three state elections in 1998.”

In those two cases, it is also interesting to know that:

>•Both governments had access to the source code

>•The machines were operated by supervised officials at polling stations

>•The illiterate were able to vote thanks to pictures and logos of the candidates and the party they represented

>•It greatly reduced the counting process
>•India and Brazil have attracted the interest of other countries that may purchase their technology

“In case of successful use during the Indian elections, the e-voting machines could be exported. According to Bahrat Electronics, four undisclosed South East Asian countries are currently evaluating the machines”

Several other countries have shown an interest in the machines.

"‘We are working on a model for European countries and also for the US,’ Mr Simha told the BBC News Online. ‘It is a complicated job. The quality expected is very high.’ Exports to other south Asian countries and Africa are also in the pipeline.”

“Latin America's biggest democracy has exported its electoral know-how to Argentina, Mexico and the Dominican Republic. A spokesman for the electoral commission here says the government has also advised India and the Ukraine on election procedures.”

Other e-voting success stories also involve government source code access to electoral software. Some of these countries even publish their source codes for the scrutiny of their citizens and the world. For example:


“While critics in the United States grow more concerned each day about the insecurity of electronic voting machines, Australians designed a system two years ago that addressed and eased most of those concerns: They chose to make the software running their system completely open to public scrutiny”


“Belgian Government publishes source code of e-voting software”


“Source code of Dutch Internet voting software made public”

While the single channel delivery scenario seems to have been one of the problems with the US experience, the multi-channel delivery scenario is another interesting feature of certain winning experiments in other countries. To better grasp the importance of multi-channel delivery scenarios, we point to the 1998 KPMG study:

“To take one obvious example—if Canadians had been obliged to move overnight to the use of banking machines, they would have objected vociferously. As it turns out, the machines were introduced gradually as adjuncts to traditional branch banking. Canadians gradually have come to accept and appreciate the presence of these machines as a way of increasing their access to banking services and keeping costs down.

Similar considerations apply in the case of electronic voting. If the proposal were to move to an entirely new method of voting, using whatever form of new technology, one could expect a similarly high degree of concern from Canadians. And rightly so. No new method can be ‘proven’ to work without extensive trials; more importantly, no new method can be accepted without exposure over a long period.”

Many countries (and Canadian municipalities) are unfortunately unilaterally replacing familiar electoral processes for unknown e-voting ones. Although the Brazilian and Indian governments also chose this path, they were spared the controversy that surrounded many American implementation efforts. One thing we know for sure is that the negative results of the US experience might have been avoided if citizens had been granted access to the electoral source code software, if there had been a gradual introduction of the new process, or if they had opted for a multi-channel delivery scenario. We would also like to address the fact that even if India reports a successful implementation of their e-voting machines, some critics have pointed out that the software was developed by a firm close to the government in power and that Indian citizens didn’t have access to the source code. It is also relevant to know that even in the US, the source code controversy is making progress. An e-voting provider called Votehere.com disclosed its source code in the hope that “scrutiny will boost confidence.” Furthermore, Diebold’s source code, which was made public against its will, proved to be unsecured. As is demonstrated in the following excerpt.

“We can now reveal for the first time the location of a complete online copy of the original data set. As we anticipate attempts to prevent the distribution of this information we encourage supporters of democracy to make copies of these files and to make them available on websites and file sharing networks.


As many of the files are zip password protected you may need some assistance in opening them, we have found that the utility available at the following URL works well:


Finally some of the zip files are partially damaged, but these too can be read by using the utility at:

As a final point to the source code dilemma, there is also a world-wide open source movement on the e-voting front. Many organizations (20) are devoting themselves to the task of developing free and open e-voting software that could lessen the security problems encounter by the electronic voting machines as well as the costs associated with the proprietary code of these machines. Of particular interest are several non-profit foundations or individuals such as Sensus (21) , the Cryptography and Information Security research group of MIT's Laboratory for Computer Science (22) , Open vote foundation (23), Cybervote (24) and The Open Voting Consortium (25) that are dedicated to developing alternative software for voting purposes. We should also mention the most developed and renowned world effort in this area. It is called GNU-FREE (26), The free e-democracy project, and is sponsored by the GNU Foundation (27). Voluntary multi-channel delivery scenarios

In other parts of the world, governments have frequently chosen to take the multi-channel path. For instance, countries that had multiple channel scenarios are:


“To overcome security concerns, Internet voting will only be voluntary, and voters will also have to pass by a 'real' ballot box to cast their votes.”


“Electronic voting (or e-voting) is not new to the Netherlands. It was made permissible by an amendment to the Elections Act in 1965. Mechanical voting machines were used until 1974, when electronic ones started gradually to be introduced. In the last general election, held in May 2002, 95% of Dutch municipalities provided electronic voting machines. In addition, voting by computer is now available at some polling stations.”


“From a total pool of 128,060 registered voters in the 9 participating municipalities, 50,562 actually voted and 9,390 of them accepted to participate in the pilot after casting their legal paper vote. Depending on the municipality, participants could try out three e-voting systems (a touch screen e-voting machine, a light pen system or an electronic card solution). All systems tested, as well as additional specific accessories for disabled people – such as headphones for those with sight problems – proved a great success among the voluntary participants. According to a voter survey conducted by experts from four Portuguese universities, 97% of participants said they ‘liked this new way of voting’ while 93% declared they ‘prefer this new way of voting.’”


“On 28, 29 and 30 June 2004, about 120,000 residents of central Madrid will have the opportunity to participate in a referendum via the Internet or through a mobile phone. Madrid Participa, the first multi-channel e-democracy referendum organised in Spain, will allow people to have their say on a number of local policy issues.”


“The voters will have a choice of three ways to cast their ballots Sunday. They will be able to vote at a polling place in the elementary school, mail in their ballot or, for the first time, vote on the Internet.” (32)

“This second e-voting experience was declared a success by the State authorities as 28.9% of voters decided to cast their vote electronically. According to a survey carried out online, 27% of those who voted through the Internet said they occasionally or regularly abstain from voting. With a total turnout of 59.3% against an average of 50% for these kind of local polls, there are reasons to believe that e-voting may have boosted citizen participation in the referendum. Another interesting figure was that 23% of the Internet voters were people over 60 years old.”

United Kingdom

“The results of the e-voting trials held during the local elections in England on 1/5/2003 have been branded as ‘encouraging’ by the UK government. According to the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM), the government department in charge of local government, around 21% of voters in e-voting pilot areas have used new methods to cast their vote (by text message, through the Internet, at electronic kiosks, and for the first time through digital television). 6.5 million voters 17 areas were eligible to vote by these new means this year.”

1.1.3 Conclusion

For another point of view on international e-voting experiments, we would like to mention an e-democracy seminar that was held by the Information Society Directorate General of the European Commission in April 2004. Their objective was “to take stock of eDemocracy experiments, to exchange views on results achieved and challenges, and to learn for future research in a dialogue of researchers, policy makers and practitioners.” (35) Of particular interest, they noted that:

“What became increasingly apparent with all presentations was that eVoting is both a technology and a social issue. It relies on an effective policy and legal framework to ensure viability of a technical solution. This is also explains the higher use in non-institutional or limited scope elections, exceptions being in Switzerland and the UK.

The core technologies presented were internet dominated, with security elements ranging from PKI to new protocols and open source usage. However, it was generally felt that ICT enabled modes of voting do not replace the traditional ballot box but should offer a host of alternatives to achieve a common aim.”

Thomas B. Riley of the Commonwealth Centre for eGovernance, which also published a report for the same e-democracy seminar, noted that:

“e-Voting is emerging as a tool for enhancement of democracy in many countries. Estonia plans to implement e-Voting in their 2005 general election, and Germany is moving ahead, with France already having conducted e-Voting experiments. The seminar raised many concerns about the reliability of voting machines, the technical problems that skew the results, the difficulties of authentication of the voters and often the lack of a verifiable paper trail. One of the problems has been malicious attacks by hackers against e-Voting software which then corrupts the results and compromises the identity of voters. One solution proposed for addressing this problem was to continue to have the paper ballot until these issues are worked out. There were differences of opinion on the veracity and reliability of online voting techniques. However, the overall majority consensus was that e-Voting should go forward and that good policy, in conjunction with appropriate checks and balances, and the improvement of the technology were important.”

To conclude, contrary to the ¨Americanized perception¨ we held prior to this research, we believe that e-voting has had significant positive impact in many countries and jurisdictions and will continue to do so if certain best practices are followed during the implementation phase. We will further develop these best practices in a later section.


1- See appendix 1 for a listing of e-voting experiments around the world.

2- Pratchett, Lawrence, et.al, The implementation of electronic voting in the UK, (Complete), De Montfort University, University of Essex, BMRB International, publ. Local Government Association (UK), May 2002, p.50

3- In assessing what had been done throughout the world, we have been greatly helped by the web site developed by the European Union http://europa.eu.int/index_en.htm . This web site contains an extensive e-government news watch index that was of tremendous help in this research.

4- See:
• Kuchinskas, Susan , E-Voting Suit Highlights Legal Lag, article, InternetNews.com, July 2004, http://www.internetnews.com/ec-news/article.php/3382541

• Hope, Barbara Jean, Who is counting your vote? Diebold & Bush vs. the public interest, article, Peoples Weekly News, Jan. 2004, http://www.pww.org/article/articleview/4642/1/197/

• Slashdot.org, CA Secretary of State Bans Diebold Machines, http://slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=04/04/30/2130206

5- http://www.election.nl/bizx_html/IVS-GB/

6- http://europa.eu.int/ISPO/ida/jsps/index.jsp?fuseAction=showDocument&documentID=2520&parent=chapter&preChapterID=0-140-194-329-338

7- http://www.centerdigitalgov.com/international/story.php?docid=3030000000025892.0

8- http://www.microsoft.com/resources/casestudies/CaseStudy.asp?CaseStudyID=14533

9- http://europa.eu.int/ISPO/ida/jsps/index.jsp?fuseAction=showDocument&documentID=2243&parent=chapter&preChapterID=0-140-194-329-348

10- http://europa.eu.int/ISPO/ida/jsps/index.jsp?fuseAction=showDocument&documentID=2243&parent=chapter&preChapterID=0-140-194-329-348

11- http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/3493474.stm

12- http://www.wired.com/news/business/0,1367,61654,00.html?tw=newsletter_topstories_html

13- Zeter, Kim, article, Wired news, Aussies Do It Right: E-Voting, Nov. 2003, http://www.wired.com/news/ebiz/0,1272,61045,00.html
The source code for their software is available at : http://www.elections.act.gov.au/Elecvote.html

14- http://europa.eu.int/ISPO/ida/jsps/index.jsp?fuseAction=showDocument&documentID=2686&parent=chapter&preChapterID=0-140-194-329-332

The source code for their software is available at :


15- http://europa.eu.int/ISPO/ida/jsps/index.jsp?fuseAction=showDocument&documentID=2652&parent=chapter&preChapterID=0-140-194-329-341

The source code for their software is available at :

16- KPMG /Sussex Circle, Technology and the Voting Process, Final Report, June 1998, pp. 58-59

17- http://www.linuxjournal.com/article.php?sid=7561&mode=thread&order=0

18- http://msnbc.msn.com/id/4677716/

The source code for their software is available at :

19- http://www.scoop.co.nz/mason/stories/HL0307/S00064.htm

20- http://www.01net.com/article/230593.html

21- Electronic polling system http://lorrie.cranor.org/voting/sensus/

22- http://theory.lcs.mit.edu/~cis/voting/voting.html

23- http://open-vote.org/

24- http://www.eucybervote.org/main.html

Demos available at: http://www.eucybervote.org/demo.html

Prototype is available at : http://www.eucybervote.org/reports.html

25- http://www.openvotingconsortium.org/

26- See:

• Web site :http://free.planetmirror.com

• The source code for their software is available at : http://free.planetmirror.com/download/

27- http://www.gnu.org/

28- http://europa.eu.int/ISPO/ida/jsps/index.jsp?fuseAction=showDocument&documentID=1539&parent=chapter&preChapterID=0-140-194-329-333

29- Ministry of interior and kingdom relations, Netherland, http://www.minbzk.nl/uk/different/remote_e-voting_in

30- http://europa.eu.int/ISPO/ida/jsps/index.jsp?fuseAction=showDocument&documentID=2633&parent=chapter&preChapterID=0-140-194-329-342

31- http://europa.eu.int/ISPO/ida/jsps/index.jsp?fuseAction=showDocument&documentID=2610&parent=chapter&preChapterID=0-140-194

32- http://www.iht.com/articles/83105.html

33- http://europa.eu.int/ISPO/ida/jsps/index.jsp?fuseAction=showDocument&documentID=1845&parent=chapter&preChapterID=0-140-194-329-347

34- http://europa.eu.int/ISPO/ida/jsps/index.jsp?fuseAction=showDocument&documentID=1054&parent=chapter&preChapterID=0-140-194-329-345

35- Macnaughton, Gareth, eDemocracy report v5, Seminar report, eGovernment Unit, Information Society Directorate General, European Commission, April 2004 p.3

36- Macnaughton, Gareth, eDemocracy report v5, Seminar report, eGovernment Unit, Information Society Directorate General, European Commission, April 2004 p.8

37- Riley, Thomas B., Report on e-Democracy seminar, eGovernment Unit, Information Society Directorate General, European Commission, Feb. 2004, p. 10

Appendice 1

Tableau des expérimentations de votes électroniques mondiales


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