Unifying Electronic and Remote Voting: u-Vote Case Study

Unifying Electronic and Remote Voting: u-Vote Case Study

Anna Riccioni (University of Bologna, Italy & CINECA (Inter-University Consortium), Italy) and Francesca Merighi (CINECA (Inter-University Consortium), Italy)
Copyright: © 2014 |Pages: 16
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-5820-2.ch010
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The voting scenario is rich and complex: democratic institutions typically call several kinds of elections, which often have different requirements in terms of costs and needed resources, and are exposed to different security risks. Some electoral events could target relatively small sets of voters, sparsely distributed across the country or even in the world: a typical example is the election for renewing the board of directors of an association or research center. On the other hand, Government or public-office elections typically involve a great number of voters who, in most part, are localized within a country or a regional area. As a consequence, the design, development and deployment of electronic voting systems suitable to accommodate the wide range of conflicting requirements emerging from such different voting scenarios is still a challenging issue. This chapter presents u-Vote, a solution which is able to operate in different deployment settings, so as to accommodate the peculiarities characterizing different voting scenarios, while striving to provide the best possible balance between security measures and convenience for voters.
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The growing diffusion of Web-based services and applications, such as blogs, podcast and social computing platforms, is gathering an ever increasing relevance for democratic processes by encouraging citizens in taking part to political campaigning, referenda and voting; by improving their interaction with elected representatives; and by favoring broad participation in deliberation over policy in the public venues. On the other hand, recent open data initiatives are starting to improve transparency of national and local institutions, thus providing citizens with the needed knowledge to make informed decisions on major political issues. Electronic voting (e-voting) technologies are an integral aspect of this process and give rise to hopes and speculation about their impact on processes and practices of democracy.

The idea of e-voting is not new: the first patents in the field date back to the nineteenth century and include the electrochemical vote recorder proposed by A. Henderson in 1950, the electric vote-recorder with electromechanical counter proposed by T.A. Edison in 1869, and the push-button paperless electrical voting machine proposed by F.S. Wood in 1898 (Jones, 2003). However, it is only in the last 10 years that e-voting systems have become a widespread reality. In the U.S.A., the Help American Vote Act (HAVA) approved in 2002 paved the way to the broad adoption of e-voting technologies, whereas European legislative frameworks are still greatly heterogeneous and not all European countries have adopted e-voting technologies yet.

The literature of the e-voting field is characterized by a variety of approaches. In the nineteenth century the United States of America led the world in experimenting with using technology in the electoral processes. This has made it possible, over the years, the adoption of a wide range of voting machines, such as, punch card machines, optical scans, Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) voting systems, Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) electronic voting machines. In recent times, also in Europe a number of interesting and diverse e-voting experiences took place, ranging from the Estonian unsupervised Internet voting, the Dutch polling place voting, the Finnish supervised kiosk voting, up to the French mixed approach that embraces both Internet and polling place voting (U.S. Election Assistance Commission, 2011; Prosser & Krimmer, 2004). Such a composite picture originates from the complexity of real voting scenarios. In fact, representative democracies are characterized by articulated institutional architectures that require citizens to elect the legislature, as well as, their government at national, regional and local levels. In addition, a number of both public and private organizations, ranging from Universities, to research centers, to industries and business companies, periodically call elections for renewing executive boards, committees, or union representatives. The above mentioned elections not only target different voters, but also display significantly different requirements in terms of costs and resources.

Despite the relevant research efforts, the design, development and deployment of electronic voting systems is still a challenging endeavor. In fact, provided that each voting scenario displays its own peculiarities, when dealing with security it is not possible to define “one-size-fits-all” solutions, making it necessary to provide suitable answers to several research issues:

  • How can we design and develop practical e-voting solutions able of accommodating the peculiarities characterizing different voting scenarios?

  • How can we identify, for each scenario, the best suited trade-offs in the required security measures while taking into account the available resources and expected risks?

  • What is the impact in e-voting security of different deployment scenarios?

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