House of Lords Select Committee on Democracy and Digital Technologies
Scytl Response to the Call of Evidence
House of Lords Select Committee on Democracy and Digital Technologies
Response to the Call of Evidence
September 20, 2019
Onno van Dommelen
VP Strategic Accounts & Alliances
Scytl Secure Electronic Voting
Use only for evaluation purposes.
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One of the common characteristics of political campaigns in the recent decade is the ever-increasing use of digital media for communication and coordination. From large-scale protests to local or national elections, social media facilitate self-expression and promote social connections. At the same time, election candidates resort to social media as the principal tool for political campaigning and direct communication with voters.
In this context, growing scholarly attention has been paid to the outstanding role social media play in various of political campaigns. However, only recently have governments and public institutions started to pay closer attention to the transformative effect of technology on political communication and campaigning.
Scytl welcomes the initiative of the Select Committee on Democracy and Digital Technologies and is pleased to share its insights. As global leader in secure online voting, election management, and election modernisation solutions, Scytl’s solutions incorporate unique cryptographic protocols that ensure maximum security, transparency and auditability in all types of elections. Scytl has capitalized its more than 20 years of pioneering research to develop unique election-specific cryptographic security technology protected by the largest patent portfolio of the industry. Over these years, Scytl has accrued more experience working with election officials than any other organization in existence.
This experience has fuelled everything we do, every product we develop and every implementation we deliver. Every product in our portfolio has been created by election officials and election experts, for election officials. Having worked with hundreds of governments and electoral authorities across the world, we believe that mainstream and emerging technologies can play a pivotal role in modernizing political communication, facilitating citizen participation, improving accessibility and empowering democratic process. This document presents evidence and positive examples of technology that can help elected representatives and/or candidates engage with public, as response to the following questions:
12. How could the Government better support the positive work of civil society organisations using technology to facilitate engagement with democratic processes?
13. How can elected representatives use technology to engage with the public in local and national decision making? What can Parliament and Government do to better use technology to support democratic engagement and ensure the efficacy of the democratic process?
14. What positive examples are there of technology being used to enhance democracy?
Online voting is a technology that allows voters to cast their votes easily and safely from any location and from any device with an Internet connection. This solution facilitates the participation of all voters to the democratic process, and especially those with difficulties in exercising their right to vote, such as voters with disabilities or those who cannot access a polling station. Today’s technology on online voting ensures the privacy of the vote and the integrity of the results at all times, while reducing the costs associated with the electoral process.
Below are listed some of the main features and advantages online voting technology can bring to the electoral and participatory processes:
Usability and accessibility
Online voting can be a simple and user-friendly process that requires no previous training; voters can cast their ballot from any device with an Internet connection (PC, mobile phone, tablet) and with a standard web browser. The process is simple and intuitive, with clear instructions, so that voting can be completed in minutes or even seconds, from any location.
Online voting makes democratic participation more accessible to voters who normally have challenges in exercising their right to vote, such as those who live in remote locations and cannot easily access a polling station or voters with visual or kinetic disabilities. Online voting technology supports the use of screen reading software, ergonomic devices, and so forth, enabling these voters to cast their ballot independently and without assistance.
For example, the online voting system of New South Wales is the leading reference in the adoption of secure and accessible online voting, setting the global standards on the implementation of innovative online voting solutions. Both the increasing usage and the higher satisfaction rates are testaments to how election modernisation technology can have a profound positive impact in facilitating citizen engagement in the democratic processes.
Speed and precision
Unlike traditional ballot paper processes, where manual counting of votes can be long and where errors may occur, online voting results can be calculated in just a few minutes. In addition, the entire process can be validated for consistency and integrity, thus preventing the possibility of invalid votes due to involuntary errors of the voters.
Online voting significantly reduces the costs of the election process, due to reductions in costs in materials, workdays and logistics. Overall, it is estimated that online voting can reduce the total cost of the election process by 50%. Scale costs are also lower, so once the online voting system is set up and running, it is much easier to carry out additional participatory processes in a much lower additional cost. Furthermore, from an environmental perspective, it is a sustainable solution, reducing the overall ecological footprint, as it reduces tasks such as the production of paper and toner, printing ballot papers, purchasing ballot boxes, transport of resources, etc.
Increase in democratic participation
As a direct consequence of its usability, comfort, security and transparency, online voting process tend to show an increase in citizen participation, making the electoral process even more engaging, providing enhanced democratic legitimacy to the results.
Online voting solutions use advanced cryptographic tools for safeguarding the security of the entire process end-to-end. From the moment that the "digital envelope" is sent from the voting device, it is encrypted and digitally signed, ensuring that no one can view its content or modify it. Moreover, the vote decryption key is divided in different fragments, which are evenly distributed among the members of the Electoral Board, so that no individual can access the votes or manipulate the digital ballot box, before the end of the voting process.
In addition to the sophisticated security measures, the latest generation of online voting solutions also include advanced verifiability measures:
It is important to emphasize that the content of individual votes is not displayed at any moment. This means that it is possible to give transparency to the system and the process, without jeopardizing the privacy of voters. Such measures increase voter confidence in the process, as this is completely transparent and auditable while providing election authorities with valuable peace of mind.
Election Statement Management solutions allow disabled and remote citizens to access election documents (such as candidates’ statements and press material, financial reports on election expenditure, voting instructions etc.) during the election campaign. This technology features a set of functionalities which can be configured and personalized to meet the specific needs of the digitization processes of any paper-based document that is to be made available to citizens during an election campaign.
Instead of distributing Election Statements to citizens on paper, this technology allows election authorities to load, validate and publish these statements in an electronic format in a secure and easy manner, allowing citizens to consult them at any moment. At the same time, it allows candidates or representatives to disseminate up-to-date and accurate information to their constituents, resulting in more fluid, direct and open democratic communication.
Below are listed some of the main features and advantages election statement management can bring to the electoral and participatory processes:
Accessibility for Persons with Disabilities
For persons with disabilities, online Election Statement Management solutions address the challenges and eliminates the barriers faced by the visually impaired or illiterate voters through a secure website, compliant with accessibility standards for people with disabilities.
WCAG 2.0 AA Compliant
The web interface of these solutions usually is WCAG 2.0 AA compliant, making content accessible to a wider range of people with disabilities, including blindness and low vision, deafness and hearing loss, learning disabilities, cognitive limitations, limited movement, speech disabilities, photosensitivity and combinations of these. It supports the use of the common commercially available assistive technology such as screen readers and screen magnifiers.
Secure PDFs transfers of Election Statements and Ballot Files
Such solutions guarantee the integrity and authenticity of the Election Statements and ballots PDF files, thanks to a mechanism of digital signature and verification, allowing to secure the entire life cycle of the documents.
For enhanced privacy, some vendors have developed a specific technology which prevents the server to know which Election Statement (or which Ballot) has been loaded.
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