EVote2010 in Castle Hofen/Bregenz

The 4th international conference on e-voting just started. Taking place in Castle Hofen, a small castle near Bregenz, This year’s meeting is co-organized by E-Voting.CC, the Council of Europe and the German Gesellschaft für Informatik. Around 70 international experts will discuss the latest developments in e-voting. The topics range from practical experience reports to certification and end-to-end verification.

The official hashtag for the conference is #evote2010.

After the welcome speech of chairman Robert Krimmer and a big thank you to the sponsors and partners Michael Remmert gave an overview of the activities of the organisers and yesterdays workshop (on a draft on international guidelines on e-voting and transparency of e-voting systems. The Council of Europe has taken notice of the topic e-voting, e.g. with the Comittee of Ministers on e-democracy. Since 2005 a lot has been achieved and there are a number of tools that can be used. However, in the upcoming years the Council will change its focus and concentrate more on the governance of the internet following democratic principles.

Keynote: Donetta Davidson (Chair U.S. Election Assistance Commission – EAC).

Davidson was nominatd by President Bush in 2005 and served at all levels of government (which is, according to her, somewhat unique for the U.S. :-)) As for the kind of equipment used for elections, the U.S. have a very decentralised system. Federal Elections are held every two years. This requires a lot of implements from the state, like voting systems that meet the requirements detailed in HAVA (Help America Vote Act from 2002), such as accessibility. (Help Amercia Vote Act from 2002). This act was based on the government funding an election reform for the first time. Davidson gave an overview on the systems currently tested and election guidelines. For instance, there has been an update to the 2005 guidelines (VVSG 2005). Goals included bringing along tests associated with the included 2.0 material. At the moment a complete rewrite of this guidelines is in the planning. The drafting of the “Pilot Standards” was an iterative process that was made very transparent to the public. State Pilot Projects included the Arizona Democratic Primary (2000 with 41 % internet voters), the Michigan Democratic Caucus (2004), Project Bravo (2008 used in three different areas with a paper reord printed for each vote and used for verifying results) or Democrats Abroad (2008 with overseas citizens worldwide able to ast a ballot in the 2008 Democratic Primary).  Soe problems in the U.S. are that there are still over 30 states doing fax or the clarification of responsibilities.

More work on the EAC (including test series) to be found on http://www.eac.gov

Charles Stewart, R. Michael Alvarez, Thad Hall: Voting Technology and the Election Experience: The 2009 Gubernatorial Races in New Jersey and Virginia.

I am not sure whether my mother can do this.

Thad Hall presented a survey on peoples attitute on voting experiences. For the research framework, the context in which elections occur was important. The study was conducted in 2007, 2008 (2) and 2009 (4 times in total), including the experience of all voters (1.200 interviews in New Jersey, 1.300 in Virginia). The study looked at different aspects, e.g. the time people were waiting for elections or changes in voter confidence. Voter confidence was also put into relation with confidence with technology or the issue of privacy. Another big factor is whether people had problems with technology in the past. To sum up an interesting talk, we can draw the following conclusions:

  • Voting technology implementation always occurs in a context (previous experiences, concerns about fraud)
  • Developing summary measures of voting experiences is very important (confidence and evaluations of usability)
  • Technology is important for information seeking – but not for all voters

Voter confidence was significantly related to race and former voting experiences. However, the number of people having problems was very low. Electronic voting in the U.S. context is often related to the “mother effect”: “I can do this, but I am not sure whether my mother can do this.” If you then ask the mother, she would tell the same about here mother and so on. 🙂

Robert Krimmer: The Use of E-Voting in the Federation of Students Elections 2009

Krimmer raised the question why e-voting is a topic both interesting and of high dispute in Austria. The information society in Austria is based on a Central Citizen Register since 2001 and the Citizen Card. Therefore, identification is not the problem, but there are issues with ensuring privacy in the e-voting process. The first idea to talk about e-voting was for the Federation of Students. There were, as opposed to the plans of the Federal Chacellery, high tensions from the beginning: protests from the representatives of the students and a public discussion arount voter coercion and transparency. Even though data protection was guaranteed, people had fears about techology sucking out all their data and a secure voting process. In the election phase, 21 universities took part. Internet-voting was placed one week before the paper-based election (5 full days). In case the e-voting would have had problems people would have been requested to come to the polling stations. (On a side note, one of the major problems back then for the students (remembering the code for the ID card) is gone by now.)

After the election there were complaints in the newspapers that the eletronic voting system nearly destroyed the whole voting process (many people will know the discussion). There was a destruction of data (physical and thermal), 5 appeals to the constituional court and there is still tension going on. According to Krimmer many people felt left out in the implementation process and technology didn’t convince the voters in this case. Further developments like the usage of cellphones might help in the future as the smart card is part of the problem. However, it was a very neccesary experience and further serious discussions are needed.

Advantages that might convince the strong opposition might be found where there are similar intentions, like transparency and more engagement. If you’re interested in the discussions and happen to be looking for arguments against e-voting for a change (or media sources related to the topic), papierwahl.at is collecting critical or negative aspects of e-voting.

Stefan Popoveniuc (George Washington University): Scantegrity Mock Election at Takoma Park

This is another e-voting case study. To keep my post short :), I’ll just sum up the major points of criticism towards e-voting as I found them significant: This is too complicated, real voters won’t use it, don’t need it, don’t want it, you need to be a geek to use it, only the elite can use it (maybe we should add: my mother can’t use it :-)).

Letizia Caporusso: The Role of Trust, Participation and Identity in the Propensity to E- & I-Vote

Will e- or i-voting revolutionise democracy? Will it reduce costs, limit errors, be too easy, individualise democracy, appeal minorities? For instance, different researches address the lack of association between the ability to e-vote and socio-demographic characteristics. The data Caporusso is referring to came from a small area in Italy. She wanted to understand whether those people who trust the government would be more inclined to vote over the internet. Interestingly enough, the elderly, but also young people, are more skeptical toward electronic and internet voting (curvilinear effect). This finding is consistent with other research in advance. Not too surprisingly, people who tend to trust the generalised other are more likely to trust e-/i-voting. I-voting appeals slightly more to those who did not vote in the last general elections, but this is not a statistical significant result. E- and i-voting tend to attract the more politically engaged, but there is little evidence that it will allow more people to vote.

P.S.: Interesting sidenote: People who were very attached to their territority didn’t really trust their locals. 🙂

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