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Technology and the Voting Process

III. Criteria for Effective Electoral Administration

The fundamental criteria for the successful administration of the voting process remain the same, regardless of the chosen voting mechanism. In our analysis of electronic voting options we tested each of the options against the following seventeen fundamental criteria that were derived from discussions with Elections Canada officials.

  1. Democracy – one eligible voter can cast one vote
  2. Accuracy – the final vote count reflects the intent of voters
  3. Security – measures are in place to protect the integrity of the process
  4. Secrecy – no vote can be traced to the voter
  5. Verifiability/auditability – the vote results can be verified after the initial count
  6. Privacy/confidentiality – information collected on electors is used for election purposes only and within the scope for which it was collected
  7. Transparency – the process is open to outside scrutiny
  8. Accessibility – the reasonable, specific needs of eligible electors are taken into account so that none are disenfranchised
  9. Neutrality – electoral processes or materials do not favour one candidate or party over another
  10. Simplicity – the voting processes do not make voting unduly complicated

Additional criteria that can particularly be applied to electronic forms of voting are:

  1. Flexibility – the voting process can handle a variety of ballot styles and counting formats
  2. Scalability – the voting process can be scaled to handle large and small electoral events
  3. Recoverability – the voting process provides for duplication of systems to prevent data loss
  4. Mobility – the voting process provides the ability for votes to be cast from locations other than the traditional polling station
  5. Speed of count – results can be reported quickly
  6. Cost-effectiveness – the voting process is effective and economical
  7. Technical durability – the voting process allows the basic electoral infrastructure to be reasonably insulated from obsolescence

One could say that the first ten criteria speak directly to the interests of voters in the integrity of the ballot process, while the last seven speak more to the interests of the electoral administrator.

Together, these seventeen criteria make up a multi-dimensional baseline of adequacy for any proposed voting procedure, electronic or otherwise. It would be difficult to imagine a jurisdiction adopting a new technology for voting if it were not satisfied that the proposed innovation was at least as good as the present system on every one of the first ten criteria, and better than the present system on the last seven.

In Section VIII of this report we provide a detailed discussion of how the criteria could be met in practice for different voting processes.