Author Archives: robertkrimmer

OSCE/ODIHR releases Election Expert Team Report on Internet Voting Pilot Project in Norway

Last week, OSCE/ODIHR released its election expert team report on the Internet Voting Pilot Project in Norway.

Norway’s internet voting project for the 12 September 2011 local government elections was conducted in an open manner, but the system could have benefited from more formalized procedures, concludes the final report of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights’ Election Expert Team. The report was released on 2 March 2012.

According to the report, Norway’s Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development, which implemented the project, performed its duties impartially and professionally. Despite certain technical difficulties and minor delays, the report says, the Ministry ensured a high level of security of the internet voting system, which was used as an additional voting channel for voters registered in ten selected municipalities.

Internet voters received a specially designed secret code, for checking whether their votes were cast as intended. However, the report highlights, due to the complexity of this feature’s design, the authorities experienced certain technical problems.

In addition, many aspects of the pilot project were not formalized, including the set-up, operation, security, testing and data disposal procedures, as well as defining the grounds for invalidating electronic votes. The report adds that the pilot could have also benefited from more comprehensive testing.

Final Report on Russian Duma Elections Released

OSCE/ODIHR has released its final report on the Russian Duma elections today, which is available at 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.


Preliminary Statement on the Russian Federation Duma Elections

Today, the OSCE/ODIHR Election Observation Mission to observe the Russian Federation Duma Elections presented its preliminary findings in a press conference in Moscow.

In its overall conclusions the mission found, that

Despite the lack of a level playing field during the Russian State Duma elections, voters took advantage of their right to express their choice, the international observers concluded in a statement issued today.The observers noted that the preparations for the elections were technically well-administered across a vast territory, but were marked by a convergence of the state and the governing party, limited political competition and a lack of fairness.

Although seven political parties ran, the prior denial of registration to certain parties had narrowed political competition. The contest was also slanted in favour of the ruling party: the election administration lacked independence, most media were partial and state authorities interfered unduly at different levels. The observers also noted that the legal framework had been improved in some respects and televised debates for all parties provided one level platform for contestants.

On election day, voting was well organized overall, but the quality of the process deteriorated considerably during the count, which was characterized by frequent procedural violations and instances of apparent manipulations, including serious indications of ballot box stuffing.

In this election the mission also for the first time observed the use of new voting technologies in the Russian Federation, as across the country, ballot scanners were used in 4,800 polling stations and 326 polling stations were equipped with touch screen electronic voting systems.

Voting using electronic touch screen machines was well organized overall and was carried out without technical problems. It was, however, observed that most voters needed help when casting their votes. A number of observer teams reported problems with the secrecy of the vote related to the use of ballot scanning machines.

Touch screen voting machines were equipped with an embedded printer giving voters the possibility to verify their vote whilst voting. Although this enhanced the verifiability of the process, the fact that votes were printed consecutively on one strip of paper created the potential for the violation of the secrecy of the vote.

PEC members in most of the regions observed received training on the use of new voting technologies. The practice of publicly testing both systems on or immediately prior to election day can potentially help build trust in e-enabled voting. However, the absence of provisions for random mandatory manual recounts of the processed ballots is of concern.

In addition, transparency in the design and functioning of both systems is insufficient as both types of technologies are based on proprietary software not open to public scrutiny.

Find the full statement here. A full report is to be expected in two months time after the end of electoral cycle.

OSCE/ODIHR Election Observation Mission to Duma Elections in the Russian Federation 2011

Tomorrow OSCE/ODIHR will start up the election observation mission (EOM) to observe the 2011 Russian Federation Duma elections. The team also includes an expert for New Voting Technologies. The Russian Federation will use NVT in about five % of their polling stations, in majority optical scanners but will also use touch-screen voting computers in one percent of them.

More info at

OSCE/ODIHR Election Assessment Mission to Switzerland 2011

On Monday we are starting up our EAM to assess Switzerland’s 2011 federal elections. Eight analysts from seven participating states will look at the election process including special topics like campaign financing or Internet voting. With this, Switzerland will be the second country in the OSCE area to introduce Internet voting (for voters living abroad and registered in one of four cantons) in its prime election. See

OSCE/ODIHR publishes Needs Assessment Report on Switzerland

Today, OSCE/ODIHR published their Needs Assessment report on the upcoming Federal Elections in Switzerland. It will be the first time that Internet voting will be offered for citizens living abroad who are registered in four cantons. Read the report here.

On 23 October, Swiss voters will elect members to both houses of the Federal Assembly for a four-year term. The 200 members of the National Council are elected though a proportional system. Most of the 46 members of the Council of States will be elected through a majoritarian system.

Switzerland is a federal state composed of 26 cantons, with each canton enjoying considerable autonomy. While federal legislation provides minimum conditions for National Council elections, the cantons are responsible for implementing regulations and organizing the election process. The Council of States elections are under the full competence of the cantons.

The administration of elections is highly decentralized, involving the Federal Chancellery, the cantonal chancelleries, and the communes; responsibilities and procedures vary considerably across the country. Switzerland has a longstanding experience with democratic elections and all interlocutors met during the NAM expressed a high level of trust in the election administration.

Swiss citizens can vote through a wide variety of methods, including in person, by post, and, for some 22,000 out-of-country voters, via the internet. The use of internet voting will be introduced for the first time for federal elections on a trial basis in four cantons using two different systems. Postal voting is estimated to be used by some 90 per cent of voters. OSCE/ODIHR NAM interlocutors indicated that postal and internet voting enjoy a high level of trust and acceptance in Switzerland.

Approximately 5.1 million Swiss citizens will be eligible to vote in these elections. Swiss citizens residing abroad have the possibility to vote in the National Council elections. However, only 11 cantons allow voting in the Council of States elections. Almost 22 per cent of the population is resident non-citizens. Although there is a growing trend to allow non-citizens to vote in local elections, cantonal rules vary and the issue is divided along party lines.

Campaign financing is largely unregulated in Switzerland. Parties can receive unlimited funds from any source and there are no limits on campaign expenditure. With the exception of the cantons of Geneva and Ticino, there are no requirements for the disclosure of the sources and amounts of donations. However, the current political discourse reflects a widespread view that party and campaign financing should be addressed.

The media landscape is pluralistic and structured primarily along linguistic lines. There is no specific federal regulation on media coverage of the campaign period. Coverage of the election campaign is largely self-regulated with the possibility to appeal to media supervisory bodies. Political advertising is prohibited in electronic media.

Complaints and appeals are regulated at the federal and cantonal level and ensure a timely right to judicial review for all aspects of the election process. The cantonal governments are the body of first instance and their decisions can be appealed to the Federal Supreme Court.

Women remain underrepresented in Swiss politics and voter turnout is significantly lower among women as compared to men. Federal authorities have taken steps to increase women’s political participation and some parties indicated that they would implement specific measures to increase the number of women candidates.

Federal legislation does not include specific provisions for international or domestic observers. However, a possible OSCE/ODIHR election observation activity was welcomed by all OSCE/ODIHR NAM interlocutors, recognizing that electoral processes can always be improved and that an external assessment and recommendations by the OSCE/ODIHR may contribute to this.

Since the 2007 OSCE/ODIHR Election Assessment Mission (EAM) to Switzerland, some recommendations have been addressed by the Swiss authorities. Nevertheless, several issues could benefit from closer attention, including the implementation of internet voting for some 22,000 out-of-country voters, the under-regulation of party and campaign finance, non-citizen voting rights, as well as cantonal variations in electoral practices. For this reason the OSCE/ODIHR NAM recommends the deployment of an EAM for the upcoming 23 October federal elections.

How about a Master in Electoral Policy in Sunny Italy?

The Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna and Creative Associates International announced a Master of Arts in International Electoral Policy and Practice. Read more here.

Based upon the Expressions of Interest received from this announcement, the one-year, post-graduate Programme will be officially open for registration on the 1st of July 2011 and will begin in January 2012.The Programme provides advanced learning in electoral system design, administration, and evaluation for the election professionals, especially for those in developing democracies or post-conflict environments. Applicants should be interested in pursuing a study programme about electoral policy and practice with professional objectives to work at an Election Management Body (EMB) or similar institution. Further eligibility requirements include a three year university degree or equivalent, issued by a university institution or equivalent, and understand, speak and write English at least at Level B2 (as exemplified in the Common European Framework of reference for Languages – Council of Europe).

The syllabus includes 440 hours of classroom lectures and exercises, 200 hours of internships, and a final written thesis. The Programme will seek to involve Election Management Bodies (EMBs) as hosts of the internships and primary sources of students. Students may be responsible to identify hosts for their internships. The Programme is also supported by a global network of universities as further sources of students and providing research, guest lecturers, and special seminars. Lectures will be delivered by an international faculty of professionals and having an extensive experience in the field of electoral policy and practice.

The tuition fee is expected to be about 25.000,00 Euros. The tuition will cover the basic academic costs associated with attending the program. However, travel, meals, and lodging both in Pisa and at the internship will also have to be included in the total costs of the Programme. That cost can be estimated at a ceiling of about 25.000,00 Euros. We recognize that the costs of higher education often exceed the personal financial resources of many qualified candidates for the Programme. As a result, the Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna and Creative Associates will provide assistance to the admitted candidates to identify financial sponsors who might be interested to cover, fully or partially, the Programme costs.

We kindly invite potential candidates to provide us with their CV and a preliminary notice on their interest in the Programme by filling the attached Expression of Interest. Please be mindful that this expression constitutes just a preliminary step, while the official application for the Programme should be submitted online following the instructions that will be published on this Scuola’s website on July 5.

For further information on the Programme please consult the document below or contact us.

Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna
Master in International Electoral Policy and Practice Secretariat
Piazza Martiri della Libertà, 33- 56127 PISA, ITALY
Tel: +39 050 88.26.69