E-voting in Tanzania?

Introduction of new “e-” applications in the electoral process often go along with discussions in various media. The same case happened in Tansania, which introduced a new electronic tabulation system in their elections last sunday (2010-10-31).

The EU election observation mission describes it in their preliminary statement as follows:

Transmission of Results
The NEC established a new method for the transmission of results for the 2010 general elections. After counting and posting the result forms outside the polling stations, presiding officers transported the result forms to the ward level and handed them over to the assistant returning officer. After collecting the results from all the polling stations in the ward, the assistant returning officer transported the result forms to the district electoral office handing them over to the respective returning officer who was in charge of aggregating the results of his/her constituency. The district electoral offices were equipped with laptops and scanners and two data entry clerks. Results from polling stations were entered twice in the system using a “double blind entry” and aggregated to generate the constituency results summary.
For the Zanzibar elections, the same system was implemented although the presiding officers transported the results directly from the polling stations to the district electoral office. The results forms were handed over to the returning officer in charge of aggregating the results of his/her constituency. Domestic and International observers as well as political party agents followed the aggregation of results on district level. At the ZEC validation of results center, the denial of access to political party agents and international and domestic observers not only raised doubts about the transparency of the process but also contradicted the assurances of previously agreed access given in the Memorandum of Understanding between the European Union and ZEC.

But not everyone likes this development, and international discussion around e-voting seems to spill over to the discussion of Tansania’s system:

Dr Slaa said that the intelligence service was involved in manipulating the presidential votes. He said his party had uncovered significant vulnerabilities in the electronic voting systems, which he claimed were manipulated by TISS officers to give votes to CCM, raising concerns about what already looks to be one of the most divisive elections in Tanzania history.

“My biggest concern is that in a very large trusted computing base, the threat of somebody with access to the development environment of the code base, particularly the vendor, basically is in a position to make the outcome of the election come out how they would like, and it’s virtually undetectable,” he said.

Sometimes it seems using “e-” in elections equals always “e-voting” and leads to some confusion. So it will be interesting how this discussion will continue. A similar discussion in Italy a couple of years back led to a ban of the respective tabulation system …