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British politician makes strong case for e-voting in UK

ballotboxE-voting technology is quickly gaining in popularity in many countries all around the world, but the United Kingdom continues to lag behind. At least one British politician is aiming to change that. Commons Speaker John Bercow is making a major push toward updating the British electoral system to integrate more e-voting technology and innovations.

While some of his opponents worry that this would dramatically change the electoral process, Bercow says that the shift to e-voting as an option should not be seen as earth-shattering but rather as a natural step in moving the nation forward.

There are many possibilities for how e-voting could be implemented in Great Britain and Bercow is open to exploring a range of options. He understands how many people, particularly young adults, have come to seen smartphones, tablets and other digital devices as extensions of themselves. These devices can already be used to handle a range of private and confidential information, including e-mail and banking, so why can't the electoral process also be included in this? Bercow says that allowing citizens to vote via their mobile devices is a natural step.

However, this isn't to say that the shift should be taken lightly. Security measures must be in place to maintain and protect the “integrity of the ballot box.” The voting process for the citizen should also be painless and easy, as to encourage greated voter turnout. The recent European Union elections only saw a 33.8 percent turnout. That is far too low to be a truly representative democracy.

To Bercow, a 21st century democracy in action should be epitomized by a good citizen who must pick up a postcard weeks in advance before “dragging themselves down to an empty community hall or primary school on a wet Thursday to put a cross on a tiny piece of paper.” In line with modern technology and contemporary society, that ballot can be cast and counted in an automated fashion and possibly even remotely. This would also allow for greater access, particularly for voters who may have difficulties getting to the appropriate polling place in a timely and convenient way.

Voters want their voices to be heard, which is also why Bercow is pushing toward “crowdsourcing” ideas and public opinion too. These so-called digital consultations would not be binding, but they would help to advise the Speaker's Commission on Digital Democracy on how best to implement the new technology. “Perhaps the time has come,” said Bercow, “for the House of Commons to allow greater choice, more flexibility and public participation.”

E-voting technology has already been implemented in some fashion in the Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly and the Northern Ireland Assembly. An expansion of this into other British elections and votes only makes sense.

It is completely open to debate whether Britain should move forward with full Internet voting by way of web-connected devices like smartphones and computers or if they should start with electronic voting terminals at set polling places. However, the democratic process in the UK is due for an update one way or another.

The next United Kingdom general election is scheduled for May 7, 2015. This will elect the 56th Parliament of the United Kingdom.

The Estonian i-voting system in a nutshell

The immense possibilities that the Internet offers to enhance efficiency in election administration has made Internet voting one of the hottest topics in the world of elections today. And it couldn’t be otherwise, in the midst of the cyber revolution we are living in.

Since 2005, Estonia has been at the world-wide forefront of i-voting. It has carried six national elections (three local, two parliamentary, and one for the European Parliament) in which voters have had the option to either cast a ballot at a polling station using paper and pencil, or to vote remotely using an Internet-based platform.

So far, the success of the system has been evident. No significant or credible hacking or fraud accusations have been made, and the number of i-voters continues to grow sharply as the natural barriers to the adoption of any new technology fade away. In the first elections with optional I-voting (2005), 10,000 people cast a vote remotely. By 2011, that number had grown to 140,000– an approximate 24% of the voting population. Authorities are confident that this technology will continue to gain steam in the near future.

In each election, paper and pencil voting begins 13 days prior to Election Day in certain designated early voting polling stations. Voters can also wait until Election Day and cast a ballot in their neighboring precinct. In addition to the traditional method, casting an i-vote is available for a period of 7 days spanning from the 10th day until the 4th day prior to E-day.

The i-voting process has a similar scheme to that of any traditional voting process. Voter authentication, a crucial first step to avoid voter impersonation, can be done through different means: an ID card (National ID card), a Digital ID (a document identifying a person in electronic environments and involving digital signatures), or a mobile-ID (system based on the SIM card of a phone acting as an ID card and a card reader).

Once the identity of the voter has been authenticated, the voter downloads the voting application from the site www.valimised.ee. After the identity of the voter has been also validated via PIN, the voting process begins. The voter proceeds to choose options and then confirms his/her choices. A notice stating that the vote has been accepted is sent to the voter.

In order to continue improving the service, Estonia is working on a system called Verification of the i-votes. The idea is to detect if any malware has affected the computer used by the voter, and if that malware could have compromised or even changed the vote. The system will also allow voters to verify their i-votes with a smart device (mobile phone or a tablet) equipped with a camera and Internet connection. To learn more about the verification, click here.

Security has always been a concern when it comes to electronic voting. In consequence, different security mechanisms have been put in place to safeguard the i-vote. The vote is encrypted with the most advanced encrypting algorithms available. Also, the voter’s personal data is digitally signed and added to the encrypted vote prior to transmission.

Before processing voting results in the evening of Election Day, the encrypted votes and the digital signatures (i.e. data identifying the voter) are separated to guarantee the secrecy of the vote. Then anonymous I-votes are accepted and counted. The system accepts votes only if they are not connected to personal data.

A frequently asked question when debates on i-voting begin is - How can you guarantee that the person casting a vote at home is doing so freely?

To mitigate voter coercion, voters are allowed to change their electronic vote by voting as many times as they please. Only their last vote is counted. The voter has the option to log into the electronic voting system again while i-voting is available, or to head to a polling station and cast a vote in person on Election Day.

For sure, Estonia will continue to lead the way in online voting for some time. Its government has been committed to better governance through technology for decades, and in view of the results, it has all the incentives to continue doing so. Paperless cabinet meetings, e-voting, e-health, e-schools, are just some of the initiatives giving this small European nation a very relevant position in the cyber revolution.

Posted by http://e-lected.blogspot.fr/2014


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