Electoral fraud has been pervasive in Nigeria since it returned to civilian rule in 1999. This year, to prevent tampering with ballots on the way to the capital, poll workers nationwide used technology from a Spanish software maker called Scytl to scan the tallies and transmit them electronically. Despite predictions of violence, voters elected an opposition candidate—removing an incumbent from office for the first time—in a process Human Rights Watch described as “mostly peaceful.” Governments in 42 countries are using software from Scytl (rhymes with “title”) to bring elements of their elections online, from registering voters to consolidating results. “If you look at the way elections are being run in most countries, it’s still the same way they used to be run 50 years ago,” says Chief Executive Officer Pere Vallès. Using Scytl’s technology, he says, a country can more easily stop fraud and announce winners “in a few hours instead of a few days.” … Many election watchdogs say software isn’t yet secure enough to be trusted, and they’re concerned that Scytl and its competitors haven’t developed a way for third parties to independently verify results. “Murphy’s Law says something is going to go wrong in pretty much every election,” says Pamela Smith, the president of election watchdog Verified Voting in Carlsbad, Calif. “Transmitting actual votes is too high-risk for using online technology.” No current online system has “the level of security and transparency needed for mainstream elections,” according to a July report prepared for the U.S. Vote Foundation, a nonprofit that advocates for expanded absentee voting.
Vallès says that concerns about security are valid but that Scytl has never been hacked. “These would be things that, for a company like us, would be a lethal type of mistake,” he says. Australia’s Brightwell acknowledges that computer scientists demonstrated a “small chink in the security” of his system earlier this year, but he says there’s no evidence it was exploited. He plans to expand online voting. “If you had major electoral fraud in the electronic channel,” he says, “it would stand out like dog’s balls.”
To soothe worried governments, Vallès often first pitches more minor functions, like voter education and personnel training. He says an online voting system due for the Swiss government next year will make it easier for authorities to audit and verify vote tallies, addressing “the main concerns of the academic community.” Vallès’s next big test will be handling reporting, as Scytl did in Nigeria, for every polling place in Spain on Dec. 20. The Spanish Ministry of Interior will publish results on a public website in near-real time. “The objective isn’t fraud prevention,” Vallès says. “It’s speed.”
Full Article: Voting From the Privacy of Your Couch – Bloomberg Business.