Digital transformation is reaching all areas of our lives. However, we still have to go to vote in person. Why can’t we vote online? Can we do it in the short term?

 

There are few issues in our daily lives that we cannot do through the internet: buy all kinds of products, buy tickets for shows, telework, make medical video consultations, hire trips, do bank transfers, pay taxes … However, every time there is an appointment with the polls, we are obliged to go in person if we want to exercise our right to vote.

Why can’t we vote telematically? “The implementation of new technologies in the field of Administration has two aspects: the technological one, which we are overcoming; and the legislature, ”says Borja Gómez, head of the blockchain initiative of software developer Paradigma Digital.

And that legal pitfall seems hard to get around. «The implementation of technologies such as internet voting requires a change in the legal framework. These legislative update processes are often lengthy and require political consensus. In addition, countries tend to be conservative and prudent when it comes to modifying their voting systems, as it is a delicate process, in which risks cannot be assumed. We tend to wait and make sure that the technology is mature enough to be able to implement it, ”says Gwendoline Savoy, director of marketing at Scytl, the electoral technology company awarded the contract for the scrutiny of the ‘superdomingo’ 26 of May, in which the municipal and European elections coincide.

When will the e-voting arrive?

The head of Paradigma Digital insists that “the voting processes are defined in laws that must be updated and changed in a consensual manner”. However, he is optimistic. «While this may seem like an insurmountable obstacle, it seems that there is some intention in the political parties to carry out tests and go this way.»

But the vote on the Internet is not yet seen on the horizon and it is difficult to venture when it could arrive. “In politics it is very difficult to make forecasts. In the case of Spain, a political consensus would be needed and, in addition, the Organic Law of the General Electoral Regime (LOREG) would have to be reformed, that regulates how the electoral system is managed, ”says Savoy.

Predicts that «first the electronic vote will be introduced for residents abroad», since «every time there are elections, Spaniards abroad complain about the difficulties of the process.» In addition, he warns that “the requested vote has demonstrated its limitations on numerous occasions.”

Some countries are showing greater dynamism in the adoption of e-voting systems. “We have demonstrated, through multiple projects, that voting online is not only fully feasible, but is already a reality. In some countries, electronic voting has already become a successful option to facilitate the right to vote for certain groups, such as residents abroad or people with disabilities, ” points out the person in charge from Scytl.

Details that «Switzerland, Australia, Canada, Estonia and France are being pioneers in the introduction of online voting in their elections.» Gómez also indicates that Brazil or India have already used the vote online, while Switzerland, Japan or the United States «have conducted small tests.»

Technological challenges

The slow deployment of Internet voting is due more to legal obstacles than to technological barriers, although these also pose a challenge. “Governments need to be able to conjugate two security requirements that are antagonistic: to identify the voter and authenticate you in a rigorous manner; and at the same time, ensure your privacy your secrecy of the vote, against external agents and to the Administration itself. To this should be added two other challenges: how to ensure to the voter that his vote has been registered correctly, and how to demonstrate to third parties that there was no fraud. To facilitate the introduction of internet voting in political elections, it requires the implementation of technological solutions is highly safe, transparent, and auditable,” says Savoy.

The expert of Digital Paradigm, indicates that “biometric systems and identity-based digital blockchain can be a solution” for the identification of the voter and the control of a single vote. In any case, the responsibility of Scytl believes that the technological challenge that involves the remote id of the voter is a problem already solved in Spain, “thanks to the implementation of the electronic ID card, for example.”

In regards to the guarantee that it will be a free vote and anonymous, Gomez said that “the whole system of traceability may pose a risk to it, so you must set mechanisms of encryption and anonymization of the information”. Responsible for Scytl explains that “this technology actually already exists and is based on the use of cryptography advanced.” Not in vain, this company of electoral technology brings more than 15 years developing voting systems secure and auditable.

Advantages of voting by internet

the implementation of The vote telematics would lead to certain advantages. “For the voter, the vote-by-internet is synonymous with the increased mobility and convenience, because it allows you to vote from any place and through any device with an internet connection,” notes Savoy. In this way, considered that it would help “encourage the participation, because it facilitates the exercise of the right to vote of any voter”. in Addition, it emphasises that “it allows a greater integration of voters with disabilities, because it allows them to vote completely independently, without help from third parties”.

on the other hand, notes that “prevents unintentional errors of vote, as, for example, to select fewer options than necessary or more of the possible”. It also considers that “it would help to gain efficiencies, to allow governments to publish results with greater speed and accuracy”, to the couple that would contribute to the reduction of expenditure, “by eliminating the costs associated with the ballot paper and postal”. Not in vain, the representative of the Digital Paradigm highlights that these processes leave us very expensive. “The logistics and the process of the general elections of 2015 at the cost of 130 million euros,” he says.

The marketing director of Scytl also indicates that it would be in a greater transparency of the electoral process. “When a voter is issued a voting from abroad by mail, don’t know if it has arrived at the destination, if it has been lost or if it has arrived in time for that to be posted. The advantage of electronic voting is that there are security measures that guarantee that the vote has arrived, it has been posted and can be audited easily. This reassures the voter and the political parties”, he says.

Though it also has a reverse negative. is “The main challenge is that the votes in e can be audited physically as the votes on paper, although there are other methods of audit technicians that allow to verify the behavior of the system. This implies to train the auditors and observers to new techniques and you will have a learning curve,” says Savoy.

Moving towards digitization

Although the issuance of the vote still cannot be done online, the electoral processes in Spain already They have started their digital transformation . «The registration of the vote by mail, the tabulation of the results and the sending to the information processing centers are already digitized», explains Gómez.

The person in charge of Scytl points out that “the management of the scrutiny of the provisional election results is done electronically.” In fact, this company, with its Vector partner, will be in charge of all process of collection, scrutiny and dissemination of results in the municipal and European elections of May 26.

«We will distribute more than 22,500 mobile devices throughout Spain, through which the representatives of each polling station will be able to enter in the application the participation data and the final results to transmit them digitally. Where there is no data coverage will be carried out through a call center that will be specifically enabled for the process, ”he clarifies.

Specifies that “the same night of the election day, and as the results of each table are collected, they will be consolidated in real time, according to the current electoral regulations, carrying out the dissemination of the results through the different official channels available, such as the official results website, mobile consultation applications or the media themselves ”.

Can we be calm with this digitization? Is there a risk of a possible hacking? We will address the cybersecurity of the Spanish electoral process in the next installment of this report, before the April 28 elections.