E-Voting Conference in Estonia (4)

Jonathan Stonestreet.works with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights. He discussed election observation. The OSCE views the key of a democratic society is that there are periodic, genuine, free, and fair elections, with universal and equal suffrage, conducted by secret ballot. The OSCE argues that observers enhance integrity. The OSCE observation methodology has been used internationally and allows for comparability of elections in different contexts.

In general, the OSCE thinks that any voting process must all adhere to OSCE commitments and new election technologies should not infringe upon these commitments. Observers have to look at an array of issues, from machine procurement and certification to election worker training and the provisions for audits. The importance of technology is that technologies can impact the resolution of election disputes, perceptions of the vote, the secrecy of the vote, and the transparency of the process.

Election observation is important to ensuring free and fair elections, as is evidence that shows that all election processes work accuracy. The voting machines should produce evidence that votes are cast and counted accurately but do so in a way that maintains secrecy. There are several issues that Jonathan pointed to directly that observers need to be able to observe:

  • Voting system certification and testing
  • Secrecy of the vote
  • Machine security
  • Accessibility
  • Education and training.
  • Manual audit capacity.
  • Accountability.
  • Legal framework.
  • Observer access.

He noted that such standards hold true for all voting systems. Interestingly, he specifically noted a problem in state laws, which is that the legal framework for voter-verified paper audit trails have to be exceedingly clear about which form of the ballot—the electronic or paper—is supreme. I would note that we do not generally meet other OSCE standards for election observation, such as allowing observers into polling places and the like (such activities are placed in the hands of parties, not independent organizations.)

The OSCE report on election observation can be found here.