OSCE/ODIHR has released its final report on the Russian Duma elections today, which is available at http://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/86959. It contains a section on NVT and three recommendations in this regard.
Two types of new voting technologies were used during these elections. The first was a ballot scanning system called “KOIB”, introduced in 2004. The second was an electronic voting system called “KEG”, initially used in 2006. The later consisted of a touch screen to cast the vote and of an embedded printer to give voters the possibility to verify their choice whilst voting. The ballot scanners were used in 4,800 polling stations and 326 polling stations were equipped with the touch screen voting systems. (22)During election day, no serious problems or malfunction of either system were noted in polling stations visited by the OSCE/ODIHR observers. Poll workers seemed well trained and confident in managing the election process using the new voting technologies. They were supported by the designated staff that could assist voters when help was requested. OSCE/ODIHR observers noted that most voters needed such help. It was also noted that people providing assistance could easily see the contents of ballots to be scanned or the votes cast on the touch screen, violating the secrecy of the vote.
Although both systems provided a ‘paper trail’ (scanned ballots with KOIB and votes printed on a paper strip by an embedded printer with KEG), the absence of provisions for a mandatory random manual recount in a significant number of polling stations where new voting technologies are used is of concern. (23) In addition, the fact that votes in the KEG system are printed consecutively on one strip of paper could create the potential for the violation of the secrecy of the vote.
On the morning of election day, both systems were tested prior to actual voting, resulting in a printed test protocol, after which machines were reset and put in voting mode to start the voting process. Both types of new voting technology are based on ‘non-disclosed proprietary software’, not open to public scrutiny. Despite limited functional tests and certification of physical properties of the hardware, there has been no public independent evaluation or formal certification of these systems. (24) This can affect confidence of voters in both systems.
- Mandatory recounts for a random significant sample of polling stations where new voting technologies are used should be carried out, as allowed for by current legislation. Such a measure can contribute to further enhancing trust in such systems.
- To enhance the transparency and trust in new voting technologies used, evaluation and formal certification of the soft- and hardware by an independent public body against publicly available functional requirements could be considered, with the detailed evaluation report made public.
- Either technical or procedural measures could be put into place to prevent poll workers from seeing the contents of ballots (for instance, through the use of privacy ballot covers) or votes being cast on touch screen machines (for instance, by using better privacy protection shields or proper voting booths) when helping voters.
- (22) These efforts were part of a larger modernization project, the interim announced goal of which is to equip 15 per cent of polling stations in the country with new voting technologies by 2012. See report by the CEC chairperson at the OSCE Chairmanship Seminar on New Voting Technologies, Vienna, September 2010, at www.osce.org/cio/71298.
- (23) See guideline 14 of the Guidelines of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe on Transparency of E-enabled Elections (2011), available at http://www.coe.int/t/dgap/democracy/Activities/GGIS/E-voting/E-voting%202010/Biennial_Nov_meeting/Guidelines_transparency_EN.pdf.
- (24) See standard 111 of the Council of Europe Recommendation (2004)11 on electronic voting at http://www.coe.int/t/dgap/democracy/Activities/Key-Texts/Recommendations/Rec%282004%2911_Eng_Evoting_and_Expl_Memo_en.pdf, as well as the Guidelines of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe on Certification of E-voting Systems (2011) at http://www.coe.int/t/dgap/democracy/Activities/GGIS/E-voting/E-voting%202010/Biennial_Nov_meeting/Guidelines_certification_EN.pdf.