OSCE guidance on e-voting

OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) have an excellent Election Observation Handbook in it’s fifth edition.

The handbook’s guidance on e-voting is really not bad at all, my comments in double brackets inspired by Bruce Sterling’s Viridian stylings:

DIRECT RECORDING ELECTRONIC (DRE) VOTING SYSTEMS: New election
technologies using direct recording electronic (DRE) equipment
(electronic voting, automated voting) have the potential to facilitate
voter participation. However, such new technologies may also pose challenges to the transparency and accountability of an election process. Furthermore, they may influence perceptions on the security of the vote, with a potential impact on voter confidence. It is therefore important to assess the introduction of DRE equipment, where relevant, and whether its introduction will have a direct impact on the possibility to observe the voting process compared to conventional voting. Such issues should be followed closely by an [observation mission] where relevant. International observers do not certify DRE voting systems. However, they should have full access to the certification and independent domestic verification process ((if there was any certification – none in the UK)). The criteria electoral authorities use when choosing DRE voting systems, and the manner of introduction, including voter education and pilot testing, are also relevant issues for an [observation mission] ((barely any meaningful information on this has been released)). The following measures could prove essential with a view to enhance voters’ confidence in such new voting technologies:

(i) Permission for competent individuals, academic institutions or civil society groups to comprehensively and independently test automated voting equipment subject to reasonable limitations related only to patent or copyright law. However, such testing should not be perceived as a substitute for the establishment of inclusive and transparent certification procedures;
((Nobody inside or out of government has done such tests that we know of. If they have been done then nobody has published any findings, which means it’s as good as if they hadn’t been done.))

(ii) Regulations that ensure against possible conflicts of interests of the vendors; ((Nothing like that in the UK that I know of))

(iii) Facilities that produce a permanent paper record with a manual audit capacity, and serious considerations to ensure a voter-verified auditable paper trail; and ((No such records are going to be produced, of course they’re rather problematic with Internet voting, but they’re not going to recount the e-counted ballots to check system accuracy))

(iv) Establishment of a clear division of responsibilities between vendors, certification agencies and election administrators to fully ensure accountability and an effective response in the case of failure of DRE equipment. ((They do seem to be getting better at clarifying responsibility, but of course there are no certification agencies)

Possible problems to be aware of: ((Keep your eyes peeled folks!))

  • Unduly long or complex ballots that may confuse voters;

  • Inadequate safeguards or accountability at any stage of the ballot production or distribution process;

  • Ballots circulating outside of polling stations on or before election day;

  • Polling-station procedures that may compromise the secrecy of the ballot; and

  • Electronic voting systems with no voter-verified auditable paper trail or other manual audit capacity.