Smartmatic, the world’s leading election technology and services provider, empowered Chilean citizens during a three-day election in the Commune of Maipu last weekend. Using Smartmatic’s multi-channel voting platform, Chileans had the opportunity to cast a ballot either online or to vote in person in precincts equipped with electronic voting machines. Citizens 14 years of age and older were eligible to vote from December 11-13 to decide on how best to allocate public funds. “We are proud to bring to Chile an integrated solution which includes class-leading electronic voting machines and the world’s most advanced Internet voting system,” said Lord Mark Malloch-Brown, Smartmatic’s Chairman.
In August this year, the Election Commission of Pakistan had announced its intentions to allow overseas expats to vote in the country’s general elections in 2018, as long as they held their citizenship. Keeping with the plan, a mock exercise was conducted to evaluate security, among other things. The Pakistani embassy in Riyadh, the High Commission in London and its consulates in New York, Dubai, Manchester, Bradford and Glasgow carried out the test. Employees at the foreign missions were asked to participate in the exercise, by voting for fictitious candidates, via two means — postal and online ballots.
“Do you support that remote electronic voting is enabled when elections and referendums are held?” Bulgarians were asked this question – and those who voted overwhelmingly said “yes”. The nearly three-quarters majority (72.5 percent) who voted in favour did not make the result binding because it was combined with low voter turnout. However, with last information about voter activity suggesting at least 31.50% of eligible voters took part, the referendum exceeds the threshold of 20% needed to submit the question to Parliament. Lawmakers will now have three months to discuss online voting, but different opinions have emerged about how the proposal should be added to MPs’ agenda. (Add to this the number of people who suspect lawmakers are bent on voting it down). In case e-voting is approved as a legitimate means to take part in elections, it is not clear whether it might be applied to the forthcoming presidential vote next year. A quick look at vote statistics also debunks the myth of “huge interest” in the referendum that eligible voters among the 2 million Bulgarians abroad would show: the Foreign Ministry said only 27 000 had cast a ballot. That expats are eager to help usher in e-voting is not self-evident anymore – a blow to activists who maintained the online method would boost participation, bring back to politics those discouraged people who voted with their feet, and make democracy more legitimate.
An unprecedented hack attack to which the Central Election Commission of Bulgaria and several ministries were exposed on local elections day last week will not affect voting results, officials say. On Sunday, as Bulgarians were casting ballots in local and municipal elections and in a national referendum on e-voting, the so-called “distributed denial-of-service” (DDoS) attack hit the commission’s website which provided updates on voter turnout. The incident began just hours into the election, with over 65 000 000 simultaneous sessions targeting the website. That would be equal to an attempt by 65 000 000 users to access the website at the same time, while Bulgaria’s population numbers just 7.2 million.
Much has been made of the proposal to use local body elections to trial e-voting in 2016. Just this week, Dunedin City Council became the latest local authority to vote not to participate in the experiment. Its withdrawal has reduced the original pool of 13 councils interested in the trial to just eight. The small remaining number has raised questions over the financial viability of the experiment, with calls for the Department of Internal Affairs to finance the project, rather than the local councils themselves. The decision by Dunedin Council to withdraw was based around three main themes – cost (put at $165,000 on top of the price of running a ‘standard’ postal vote election), security and access. Whatever online solution is used, there are remaining fears that security cannot be guaranteed. Indeed, the recent scandal involving Ashley Madison highlights such risks and, internationally, there are a number of countries where e-voting has been banned because of such fears.
In 2010, the District of Columbia decided to test its online absentee voter system. So officials held a mock election and challenged the public to do their best to hack it. It was an invitation that Alex Halderman, a computer-security expert at the University of Michigan, couldn’t resist. “It’s not every day that you’re invited to hack into government computers without going to jail,” he says. In less than 48 hours, Halderman and his students gained complete control of the system and rigged it to play the Michigan fight song each time a vote was cast. The students were ecstatic, but Halderman, who has a long history of exposing cybersecurity weaknesses, takes a more sober view. “This is the foundation of democracy we’re talking about,” he says.
Iranian Minister of Interior Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli says his ministry would take necessary measures to hold the upcoming parliamentary and Assembly of Experts elections electronically upon an approval by the country’s Guardian Council of the Constitution. Rahmani Fazli made the remarks on Tuesday, adding that if not held electronically, the voting would take place in transparent ballot boxes through which the voting ballots are visible but not readable.
The Swiss cabinet has given the green light for the cantons of Geneva, Neuchâtel, Basel City and Lucerne to offer electronic voting to registered citizens abroad. But proposals by nine other cantons were rejected due to security concerns. Around 34,000 Swiss citizens living abroad who are registered with the four cantons will be able to vote electronically in the federal elections scheduled for October 18. The voting systems in place will allow individual verification of votes and a personalised code provided to voters will help them verify if their vote has been recorded correctly or not.
Buenos Aires is currently in the middle of electing its mayor and city council. With a first round that took place on July 5th, and a second round due on July 19th, the election is the first time Argentina’s capital city has used an electronic voting system called Vot.ar, created by local company Magic Software Argentina (MSA). Like many e-voting systems before it, the security and accountability of MSA’s Vot.ar has long been questioned by local computer technicians, lawyers, human rights defenders and Internet users. But instead of addressing the flaws or postponing Vot.ar’s deployment, the Buenos Aires authorities have chosen instead to silence and intimidate critics of the system’s unfixed problems. A local judge demanded ISPs block web pages, and ordered a raid on the home of one technologist, Joaquín Sorianello, who disclosed to MSA a key insecurity in their deployed infrastructure. Even as the election continues with its troubled technology, online information on the problems is legally censored from online readers, and Sorianello’s property remains in limbo.
Argentina: Police raid programmer who reported flaw in Argentinian e-voting system | Ars Technica UK
Local police have raided the home of an Argentinian programmer who reported a flaw in an e-voting system that was used this weekend for local elections in Buenos Aires. The police took away all of his devices that could store data. According to a report in the newspaper La Nación, Joaquín Sorianello had told the company MSA, which makes the Vot.ar e-voting system, about the problem after he discovered information on the protected Twitter account @FraudeVotar. This revealed that the SSL certificates used to encrypt transmissions between the voting stations and the central election office could be easily downloaded, potentially allowing fraudulent figures to be sent. Sorianello told La Nación that he was only a programmer, not a hacker: “If I’d wanted to hack [the system], or do some damage, I wouldn’t have warned the company.” He also pointed out that it was the @FraudeVotar account that had published the information, not him. As a result of the police action, he said he was “really scared.”
Argentinian police have reportedly raided a programmer who went public with vulnerabilities in the electronic voting system used in Buenos Aires elections last June. Joaquín Sorianello has told La Nacion that police raided both his home and that of a friend, looking for computers and storage devices. Argentina’s e-voting system comprises a terminal that prints out a ballot (tagged with an RFID chip), and a separate communications terminal to send votes for counting. Security problems in the system have reached GitHub here (discussed here) and include poor security and the chance to cast multiple votes.
Website crypto problems on the Spanish online voting registration website are causing it to generate all manner of security warnings. Attempts to visit the sede.ine.gob.es site – run by Spain’s National Statistics Institute and introduced this year for municipal/regional elections – typically lead to users being confronted with a security warning. However, the warnings vary depending on the operating system and browser a surfer is using. Such website problems are sadly common, but the flaws in the Spanish voter registration website are more than normally important, since the site requests that users upload personal information, including copies of passports, ID cards and marriage certificates. El Reg learnt of the problem from reader Kulvinder Singh, who blogged about the topic.
It is a sign of the times that the Speaker of the House of Commons – not the first person that comes to mind as being part of the digital age – has established a Digital Democracy Commission to look into ways to re-imagine democracy for the connected world. With one important exception – that concerning online voting – its recommendations are sensible and to be welcomed. … Enabling people to vote online would indeed draw in many young people who otherwise wouldn’t vote, and that’s hugely important. So why am I against the idea? Well, the report quotes a good encapsulation of the key issues here by the Open Rights Group:
Voting is a uniquely difficult question for computer science: the system must verify your eligibility to vote; know whether you have already voted; and allow for audits and recounts. Yet it must always preserve your anonymity and privacy. Currently, there are no practical solutions to this highly complex problem and existing systems are unacceptably flawed.
Much ink has been spilled on the issue of setting up an independent Electoral Commission to oversee the management of elections and referenda here. Successive governments over the years have been effective at talking about it, but only the current administration is going to make it a reality. While our electoral system and the easy accessibility of politicians mean that citizens are deeply engaged with the electoral process, this isn’t necessarily matched by a sense of public confidence that the current system works. Various controversies over the years have highlighted a level of political interference in our electoral system and have only added to the further erosion of that confidence. For example, the botched €50 million e-voting machine debacle was due in no small way to the Minister of the day going on a solo run.
Non Resident Indians or NRIs will soon be able to cast their vote from abroad through electronic ballot, without having to make a trip during elections. The Supreme Court today directed the central government to allow e-voting by NRIs within eight weeks. This comes days after the Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas at Gandhinagar in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state Gujarat, where the government reached out to the Indian diaspora and promised them more rights and opportunities. The government told the court today that it has accepted an Election Commission report recommending e-ballot voting for Indian passport holders abroad and it would have the process in place after amending laws. The court said e-voting should be allowed at the earliest.
There’s a ritual to the way most people vote in most UK elections – parliamentary, local, European and in referendums – which has remained largely unchanged for many decades. On election day, traditionally a Thursday, voters go to their local polling station and cast their ballots by marking crosses in boxes with a pen or pencil and paper. The ballots are then counted by hand after the polls close. The digital revolution, which has swept through so many areas of modern life, has barely touched the system by which we elect our democratic representatives. Moves to modernise it with automated systems have so far met with high levels of resistance amid concerns over security and fraud. … Concern over security is the main reason the UK government has so far resisted any significant moves towards e-voting. Cabinet Office Minister Sam Gyimah told the political and constitutional affairs committee there were “more downsides than upsides” to the technology.
Voting began Friday in Namibia’s presidential and legislative elections, in an election that is expected to see the ruling SWAPO party retain power in the country it has run since independence 24 years ago. Voters at Katutura township, outside the capital Windhoek, formed long lines before daybreak, including some first-time “born free” voters – those born after independence in 1990. “It’s a rich country with poor people, so I hope there is more balance,” said 43-year-old Elias while waiting to cast his vote. Although he expects the ruling South West People’s Organisation (SWAPO) to win, he wants to see a more opposition parliamentarians challenge the long-party’s 24 year grip on power. Polls opened at 7am local time and will close around 14 hours later in the latest closing stations.
Australians won’t have the chance to vote electronically any time soon, after a parliamentary committee put the idea on ice. Beloved of netizens for at least 20 years, ‘net voting – as distinct from other ways in which IT&T change our electoral processes – was pitched to the committee on the basis that people “would rather be online than in line” (as the committee’s chair Tony Smith writes in the introduction). However, there’s no chance that with only two years remaining before the next federal election, a suitable system could be selected and rolled out, the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Electoral Matters says in the report posted here. Not only would the logistics be catastrophic, the report states: there’s no way to verify that someone voting over the Internet doesn’t have someone else standing over them, and the lack of privacy “opens up a market” for votes to be bought. The report notes that “technological convenience must be balanced against electoral integrity”. The report also makes the inevitable nod towards the risk of hacking.
The prospect of online and electronic voting at Australian federal elections has officially had its plug pulled for the foreseeable future. The Parliamentary Committee tasked with investigating the feasibility of digitising Australian ballots has unanimously found that a high-tech solution is still too risky, complicated and expensive to make it a reality in the near term. The probe came after the now infamous Western Australian vote counting bungle that forced the state back to the polls after ballot papers were somehow mislaid. Now in a second interim report issued by the Electoral Matters Committee, federal politicians have concluded that although there is a raft of technological improvements that could be made to the running of elections, a fully digitised solution is still a long way off. “After hearing from a range of experts, and surveying the international electoral landscapes it is clear to me that Australia is not in a position to introduce any large – scale system of electronic voting in the near future without catastrophically compromising our electoral integrity,” said the Committee’s chairman, Tony Smith MP. The Committee’s main beef with online and electronic systems – aside from the obvious threat of hacking – is that the confidentiality of how people vote could be undermined or compromised. At the moment voters physically front-up at polling booths and have their name crossed off a roll before being given two ballot papers, or more in the case of a referendum.
Here’s a view of the super storm Sandy disruption you may not have heard about — a new step in Garden State voting some think was a big failure. After Sandy, Lieutenant Gov. Kim Guadagno in her dual role as secretary of state told county clerks she issued an emergency order granting any registered voter displaced by Sandy to ability to cast votes via email or fax. Journalist Steve Friess writes the Constitutional Rights Clinic at Rutgers Law School-Newark spent the past 18 months following a public document trail to show how that went. The team was led by law professor Penny Venetis. “There was mass confusion among county officials and voters alike,”‘ the 83-page report, called “The Perfect Storm: Voting in New Jersey in the Wake of Superstorm Sandy,” said.
At the urging of county election officials in Austin, Texas, a group of Rice University engineers and social scientists has pulled together a team of U.S. experts to head off a little-known yet looming crisis facing elections officials nationwide. According to a January report from the Presidential Commission on Election Administration, U.S. elections officials are facing an “impending crisis” as they look to replace the aging voting systems they purchased after Florida’s flawed 2000 election. The commission concluded that elections officials “do not have the money to purchase new machines, and legal and market constraints prevent the development of machines they would want even if they had the funds.” But a STAR (Secure, Transparent, Auditable and Reliable) voting system is on the horizon.
Five days after Hurricane Sandy demolished the Eastern Seaboard on Oct. 29, 2012, and left the state of New Jersey in particularly horrific disarray, an exhausted Christopher Durkin listened in on a conference call while sitting in his black 2010 Chevy Malibu, charging his cell phone outside his darkened, juice-less home. Durkin was one of 21 county clerks who had been urged to join the hastily arranged call by Robert Giles, the state’s director of elections, who had promised an important announcement. Giles gave many of them a preview of what the coming days would be like, shortly before the lieutenant governor, Kim Guadagno, came on the line. “Put your phones on mute,” he said, according to several clerks on the call. “The lieutenant governor will not entertain questions.” The week, no doubt, had been grueling for all. And it was about to get even more challenging. Guadagno, in her dual role as the New Jersey secretary of state, spent her few minutes on the line rewriting the rules for the Nov. 6 general election, which was only three days away. She had, in those traumatic days after the storm, made a number of emergency changes to voting procedures. Because some 900 of the state’s 3,500 polling places had been destroyed or otherwise rendered unusable as of Friday, Nov. 2, clerks’ offices around the state were open for long hours all weekend to give residents a chance to vote in person using absentee ballots, a practice known in New Jersey as “vote by mail.” Another option was for voters to visit any polling place on Election Day and vote in the federal races — president and U.S. Senate — via provisional ballots, which would be sent to their county and tallied if the local board of elections decided the voter was properly registered and hadn’t already cast a ballot. Similar measures were taken in New York and Connecticut, states that had also suffered major damage that made the coming election a logistical nightmare.
Canada: Confidentiality concerns force Clarence-Rockland to backtrack on bold e-voting plans | Ottawa Citizen
Confidentiality concerns have prompted the city of Clarence-Rockland to backtrack on its plans to hold electronic elections and it has implemented an “emergency plan” to use traditional paper-based ballots. The municipality, located just east of Ottawa, said problems mailing out confidential personal identification numbers (PINs) to thousands of voters in the area ultimately forced it to drop its groundbreaking plans. “It was brought to our attention that the Voting PIN was visible through the window of certain envelopes resulting in both the Voter ID and Voting PIN not remaining confidential to the elector,” said the municipality in a statement released Tuesday morning.
A switch to electronic voting has been ruled out by the government – just weeks after a Labour Party report said it backed the shake-up. Sam Gyimah, the constitution minister, told MPs that such a voting revolution was unwise because there was no way to “check an error”. … At its autumn conference, Labour pointed to electronic voting as part of a package of reforms that could build on the excitement and record turnout at the Scottish referendum. Sadiq Khan, the shadow justice secretary, said: “Holding elections at weekends to raise turnout. Polling opened a week in advance to allow early voting. Electronic voting, making sure it’s affordable and isn’t open to abuse.”
Political parties under the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) Ghana Political Parties Programme (GPPP) have proposed electoral reforms in order to enhance the electoral system. The political parties comprised those with representations in parliament such as the National Democratic Congress, New Patriotic Party, People’s National Convention and the Convention People’s Party, as well those with no parliamentary representations. Speaking at the IEA National Stakeholder Workshop on electoral reforms in Accra Dr Ransford Gyampo, a Senior Research Fellow at IEA and Coordinator of GPPP, said two workshops were held for the political parties by the IEA as part of its commitment to deepen Ghana’s democracy.
Bitcoin, the alternative to currency taking the Internet by storm, now may move to another mission. Some advocates want to translate the technology into online voting. Advocates promise a utopian voting scheme driven by smartphones and apps that can overcome all the inherent vulnerabilities to classic e-voting thanks to Bitcoin’s un-hackable code. But the reality is that total security and anonymity online is a virtual impossibility (pun intended) – and both are absolutely crucial to a fair and reliable election. Bitcoin might be the world’s first viable digital currency; it exists entirely in electronic form, and is regulated by a market of online buyers and sellers, rather than a nation and a central bank. As a currency, it is an intriguing experiment. As the foundation of a democratic election, it quickly loses its luster.
Voters in Hong Kong will have a further week to cast their votes either online or at the polling booth in a referendum on democratic reform that was due to finish on Sunday. Although the unofficial referendum has no legal force, it is offering a choice of three options on how the 2017 chief executive ballot should be carried out. Each option would allow voters to choose candidates for the top job. China’s State Council called the vote “illegal and invalid.” The current system allows a 1,200 member committee to choose the former British colony’s leader.
A Cabinet minister wants e-voting back on the table – two years after the Government sold off the machines. Electronic voting was mothballed a decade ago amid concerns about the verification process and after €54m was spent on the equipment. As the counting of votes from the European elections enters a sixth day, Childrens Minister Charlie Flanagan has complained about the length of time results are taking. “Counting is taking far too long. Electronic voting must be returned to the political agenda,” he said. The machines were sold off by the Government after being in storage for eight ye
Estonia’s largest opposition party Centre Party is requesting to ban e-voting in the upcoming European Parliament elections, reports ERR. The request signed was addressed the letter to Estonian President Toomas-Hendrik Ilves, Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas, Secretary of State Heiki Loot, Chairman of the Electoral Committee Alo Heinsalu, Estonian Parliament speaker Eiki Nestor, Chairman of the Supreme Court Priit Pikamäe, Law Chancellor Indrek Teder and State Auditor Alar Karis. Copies of the letter were also addressed to the European leaders Martin Schulz, Herman Van Rompuy and José Manuel Barroso. In its request the party refers to the findings published yesterday by a group of international experts who claim that the Estonian Internet-based e-voting system is extremely vulnerable and should be banned.
Europe: Estonian e-voting shouldn’t be used in European elections, say security experts | The Guardian
Estonia’s internet voting system should not be used for the European elections in May because its security vulnerabilities could lead to faked votes or totals, say independent researchers. The flaws were discovered by a team who were accredited to observe the October 2013 municipal elections. They said they observed election officials downloading key software over insecure internet connections, typing PINs and passwords in view of cameras, and preparing election software on insecure PCs. They have reported their findings to the Estonian government, but had had no response by Monday. As one of the highest-profile countries in its adoption of the internet, Estonia intends to use the e-voting system for its European elections in May, and already uses it for national parliamentary and municipal elections. Up to a quarter of votes are cast online in elections. The attacks could be carried out by nation states that wanted to compromise elections, or a well-funded candidate who hired criminal hackers with the capabilities to alter the vote, the researchers warned.