Election Day (Setup, Testing, Security, Troubleshooting)
Last updated on December 17, 2013
Election officials should ensure that sufficient resources are in place at every polling station to receive and properly operate electronic voting equipment on Election Day. These resources should include sufficient personnel (including technicians) and processes to address any issues that may arise with the proper operation of the electronic equipment on Election Day. Observers should assess whether all procedures are appropriately followed in the setup, operation and closing of electronic voting equipment at the polling station, whether the technologies are usable and accessible for all voters and whether sufficient measures are taken to ensure election security.
Electronic voting and counting equipment should be delivered to polling stations just prior to Election Day and issued to a designated person (usually the head of the polling station committee) using appropriate handover procedures and documentation. As electronic voting and counting equipment is considered to be sensitive balloting material, all access to the equipment must be controlled and recorded, and proper security precautions must be in place to secure the machines until voting starts. Party representatives and accredited observers should be permitted to witness the delivery and setup of voting and counting equipment.
On Election Day, polling officials follow procedures to initialize the voting and/or counting machines. Typically there is a demonstration in front of any party representatives and/or observers present to show that there are “zero votes” recorded in the machine during the initialization process prior to the start of voting. Test elections are also sometimes conducted for party representatives and observers to show that ballot choices are accurately recorded.
A sufficient number of technicians should be available to provide assistance, either on the premises, on call or via telephone hotlines should officials have any problems with the setup, initialization or functioning of voting and counting equipment. Specific procedures and contingency plans must also be in place for the possibility that a voting or counting machine does not work and cannot be fixed. These could include the rapid replacement of nonfunctioning or malfunctioning machines from a store of spare machines kept under the same security protocols, postponement of elections in that polling location or the use of alternative means of voting, such as paper balloting.
During the voting period, party representatives and observers should assess whether polling officials are adhering to proper procedures for processing voters, providing assistance when necessary and respecting all security safeguards. It is particularly important for observers to consider whether the secrecy of the vote is being respected – both through the arrangement of the polling station and the way that assistance is offered to voters. Observers should also pay particular attention to any technical problems that arise with the equipment during the voting and how such problems are resolved. The introduction of technology into the voting process is likely to increase the possibility of technical problems, but they should be dealt with efficiently and according to procedures, in a manner that does not interrupt the voting process if possible.
Security safeguards during voting should include procedures for controlling access to electronic voting and counting equipment. It should be clear who is allowed access to machines in any given situation (for instance if repairs are needed), and any access should be properly documented in the polling station protocol. Safeguards such as authentication codes and tamper-proof seals on any external ports should also be used.
While electronic voting and counting equipment should have been already submitted to several rounds of usability testing during its development and in any pilots, Election Day is the real test for how well voters interact with the technology. Observers should pay close attention to the accessibility of electronic voting and counting machines, including the experiences of special groups of voters such as those with disabilities, and elderly, illiterate or minority-language voters.
At the close of voting, officials should carry out closing procedures for the electronic voting and counting equipment. Polling officials should carry out the relevant command to close voting on each voting (or counting) machine. Depending on the type of equipment, individual machines may produce a tally sheet of results for that machine. Should each machine produce its own tally, these figures should be aggregated into a polling station results protocol.
The printouts for each voting or counting machine should be posted outside the polling station, together with the overall results protocol for the polling station. Party representatives and observers should be given copies of results printouts or should be permitted to copy the figures. As in traditional voting, results protocols should be signed by members of the polling station commission. Electronic voting and counting machines may also produce an activity log, detailing all actions taken on the machine during Election Day. These should also be available for observers.
Data transmission and results tabulation also presented enormous challenges on Election Day. Although the transmission was in general fast and efficient, there were reports of transmission failures, delays or the inability of the consolidation centers to receive data. Problems emerged, in part, due to the fact that the reporting hierarchy required for electronically transmitting election results was the same as that used in manual elections. This system stipulated that data be reported from precinct to municipality to province to central server. According to several post-election assessments, this reporting hierarchy should have been adjusted to allow for direct transmission to a central server, which would have been much more timely and cost-effective.