Tarvi Martens, a creator of Estonia’s e-election system, countered recent criticism of an open-source license, saying the continued development of the Internet voting software code must be conducted in a controlled and coordinated environment. Last week, the National Electoral Committee, which Martens heads, publicly released the source code of Estonia’s e-voting software. However, the binding Creative Commons license that accompanied the code was the topic of heated debate among IT specialists who disagreed with the restrictions on amending the code. Yet Martens said allowing derivative code and free sharing of it was not the goal of publishing the details of the e-election system.
The Electronic Voting Committee yesterday revealed the source code of its server software, opening up technical analysis of the e-elections system to the public. “This is the next step toward a transparent system. The idea, which was the result of joint discussion between numerous Estonian IT experts and the Electronic Voting Committee, was implemented today. We welcome the fact that experts representing civil society want to contribute to the development and security of the e-elections,” said committee chairman Tarvi Martens. Although the source code was accessible before, it required the requester to sign a confidentiality contract. Estonia’s e-voting system has been used for five elections – including general, local and European Parliament elections – since it was introduced in 2005. In the 2011 general elections, 24.3 percent of the votes cast were done so by e-vote, according to the National Electoral Committee. A new feature at the coming October local government elections is an Android-based electronic receipt of sorts that allows a voter to verify if their e-ballot went through properly.
Estonia, which created the world’s first nationwide Internet-based voting system, has finally released its source code to the public in an attempt to assuage a longstanding concern by critics. “This is the next step toward a transparent system,” said Tarvi Martens, chairman of Estonia’s Electronic Voting Committee, in an interview Friday with ERR, Estonia’s national broadcaster. “The idea, which was the result of joint discussion between numerous Estonian IT experts and the Electronic Voting Committee, was implemented today. We welcome the fact that experts representing civil society want to contribute to the development and security of the e-elections.” Martens and his colleagues have now put the entire source code on GitHub—previously it was only made available after signing a confidentiality agreement.
Yesterday, July 20, the City of Tallinn bolstered its drive to bar the nation’s much-touted e-voting system from local elections, holding a press conference where prominent US computer scientist Barbara Simons said that such systems are inherently vulnerable.
The University of California, Berkeley PhD and former Association for Computing Machinery president spoke about risks such as malware, attacks on the server managing the election, insider threats and false websites.
Speaking in general terms, not about Estonia’s system in particular, she said that the nature of e-voting makes it impossible to audit or recount the votes. She also warned of the possibility of software viruses or worms that could infect a computer, casting votes without the user’s knowledge.
If the provincial government approves, Vancouver residents will be able to vote for their municipal representatives online this fall. Vancouver is set to join a small but growing number of Canadian municipalities that allow internet voting, subject to the province’s approval. That approval, according to City Councillor Andrea Reimer, is very likely, as the province is…