E-voting requires risk assessments

U.S. Election Assistance Commission

Risk management is the name of the game worldwide as governments move to electronic voting, and there is no single answer for gaining public trust, officials said last week.

No matter what system a government adopts, no technology can provide complete security and prevent tampering, said Julian Bowrey, program manager for local e-government in the United Kingdom. "In any system, you have to understand the risks and manage the risks," he said, speaking at the E-Gov Institute's Government Solutions Forum in Washington, D.C.

"There are many ways you can manage the risk, but you can't guarantee there

is no risk at all," said Cameron Quinn, U.S. elections adviser at the International Foundation for Election Systems, a nonprofit organization that advises governments on all areas of election

management.

Voter identity verification is one of the biggest concerns.

Officials in Ontario, Canada, have set up a two-step registration process to identify citizens before they go to polling places or vote online, and identification must be presented when they vote. It's a simple measure, but citizens are embracing the new systems and processes so far, using both the Internet and touch-screen systems without any qualms, said Sheila Birrell, town clerk in Markham, Ontario.

U.K. officials conducted several pilot tests of e-voting systems in 2002 and 2003, and auditors found no identity fraud, Bowrey said. Officials have no way of knowing what will happen as the pool of voters grows, but they need to weigh that possibility with the risks that even paper-based systems face, he said.

The possibility that the systems could be tampered with is another concern, but other than validating previous tests, the best way to mitigate risk seems to be to standardize on a system so everyone faces the same risks, said David Walsh, assistant principal in the franchise section of Ireland's Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.

E-voting has faced heavy opposition in Ireland, and government officials recently delayed a move to an e-voting system because of concerns about paper audit trails — an issue currently being debated in the United States. California is one of several states where officials are considering laws to require paper records, and the federal Election Assistance Commission last month started developing recommendations for addressing the issue.

FCW in Print

In the latest issue: Looking back on three decades of big stories in federal IT.

Featured

  • FCW @ 30 GPS

    FCW @ 30

    Since 1987, FCW has covered it all -- the major contracts, the disruptive technologies, the picayune scandals and the many, many people who make federal IT function. Here's a look back at six of the most significant stories.

  • Shutterstock image.

    A 'minibus' appropriations package could be in the cards

    A short-term funding bill is expected by Sept. 30 to keep the federal government operating through early December, but after that the options get more complicated.

  • Defense Secretary Ash Carter speaks at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco

    DOD launches new tech hub in Austin

    The DOD is opening a new Defense Innovation Unit Experimental office in Austin, Texas, while Congress debates legislation that could defund DIUx.

  • Shutterstock image.

    Merged IT modernization bill punts on funding

    A House panel approved a new IT modernization bill that appears poised to pass, but key funding questions are left for appropriators.

  • General Frost

    Army wants cyber capability everywhere

    The Army's cyber director said cyber, electronic warfare and information operations must be integrated into warfighters' doctrine and training.

  • Rising Star 2013

    Meet the 2016 Rising Stars

    FCW honors 30 early-career leaders in federal IT.

Reader comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group