Standards for Implementation
Last updated on December 17, 2013
Once a decision is reached that a country will adopt electronic voting and counting technologies, the nation should define standards for the implementation of the system. Such national standards provide overall principles that can help to guide the development of electronic voting and counting technologies as well as the legal framework that regulates them.
The process of defining national standards for electronic and voting technologies should be as open and transparent as possible, with broad participation by recognized technical institutions and experts. Public consultation should also be part of the process, with opportunities for civil society, political actors and voters to review proposals and offer their views.
When defining national standards, countries may choose to make reference to or incorporate international standards for the use of voting and counting technologies (for example, the Council of Europe [CoE] recommendation on e-voting28). International standards for democratic elections defined in public international law apply equally to elections using electronic voting and counting technologies and must be taken into account. However, as explained above, international electoral standards are still evolving in order to cope with the specific challenges of using voting and counting technologies; and there is no consensus yet on their content. Even the CoE recommendation on e-voting, which is the most authoritative of the emerging standards documents, is only a recommendation and only directly applicable to CoE member states.
The CoE recommendation provides a good starting point for establishing general standards specific to electronic voting and counting technologies, both in member states of the Council of Europe, in which the recommendation has legal standing, as well as in nonmember states. Norway, for example, incorporated the CoE recommendations (with several noted exceptions29) in its Regulations Relating to Trial Electronic Voting, making the CoE recommendations part of the regulatory framework for the electronic voting trial. The regulations emphasize that voting should be free, direct and secret, and sets basic principles to ensure the integrity, accessibility and security of the system during the trial.
In addition to general principles for the implementation of electronic voting and counting, national standards may also include technical requirements for the systems. For instance, in Belgium, the election law includes the technical features that voting machines must comply with as well as steps for certification of equipment. Similarly, Section 301A of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) in the United States includes technical requirements for voting machines used in federal elections related to verifiability, audit capacity, accessibility for individuals with disabilities, alternative language accessibility, error rate and a requirement that all states adopt uniform and nondiscriminatory standards that define what constitutes a vote and what will be counted as a vote for each category of voting system.
Although not specific to e-voting or elections, there are a number of other international and national standards with which an electronic voting or counting system may need to comply. Standards on such issues as data processing, data protection, electronic transactions, usability, accessibility, security and project management are all relevant and must be taken into consideration.
It is important at the initial stages of implementation to research what standards may apply to ensure that systems are developed to be compliant. Countries may also wish to develop standards for electronic voting and counting systems by using existing private and public institutions that develop technical standards or by drawing experts from such institutions into an expert committee for this purpose.
28 Council of Europe. Recommendation of the Committee of Ministers to Member States on Legal, Operational and Technical Standards for E-voting, adopted September 30, 2004.
29 These exceptions were largely related to the requirement to certify electronic voting solutions, which the Norwegian ministry responsible for managing elections did not wish to include for the pilot process.
Legal and Procedural Framework