In 1994, when the Russian budget was more or less equivalent to that of New York City, the state decided to begin development of the Automated State Election System (SAS). Prior to the development of SAS, Russian electoral rolls were printed on typewriters and ballot papers were hand-counted. In the 1993 elections, it took election officials 12 days to count the votes. SAS, which took about a year to develop and launch, was built on a foundation of Soviet technological innovations, but some of the world’s leading IT companies, including HP, Oracle, and Cisco Systems, also contributed.
“With the creation of the Elections SAS, we became pioneers. And to this day, not a single country in the world has a system like ours,” said Mikhail Popov, head of the Federal Center of Information Technologies under the Central Election Commission of the Russian Federation, in a 2009 interview with Rossiyskaya Gazeta. It’s possible that he is over-praising his creation. But the SAS has served more than 20,000 election campaigns at various levels without significant technological failures.
In 2009, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev proposed an upgrade to the system. According to Medvedev, the upgrade was necessary to enhance the transparency of the electoral process and strengthen public oversight. Last year, a state program was launched specifically to introduce electronic vote counting, establish a secure network for data transfer and storage, and construct infrastructure for remote voting via mobile phone for those who cannot make it to polling stations. This is particularly important in Russia, where in some regions the closest inhabited locations might be thousands of miles apart.
Many polling stations are now equipped with webcams, so in theory, voters can watch the counting of votes without leaving their computers. But the effectiveness of this measure is limited by Internet penetration rates: According to Yandex, Russia’s most popular search engine, just 40 percent of the voting-age population has access to the web.
Full Article: Electronically verified elections | Russia & India Report.