Secure elections

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Elections are important component of any democracy and reflect people's will to be governed. The future of any country and its citizens depends on elections. Elections form the mechanism of transferring power from people to the leaders they want to choose for the progress of their country. These elections take place through voting. Voting is the process by which citizens of a country choose a candidate of their choice. It may also be described as the formal recording of opinion of a group on any subject (Questia). Citizen's votes are kept secret and are tallied without knowing which voter voted for which candidate.

In its very early form, voting was carried out by chieftain through communication with tribal members and taking their approval or disapproval of certain proposals offered to them (Questia). Later during the course of history, the use of ballot came into use in political voting. Nowadays, the sophisticated form of ballot is the voting machine. “Voting technology and procedures evolved throughout the history of mankind from clay balls put in clay pots in ancient Greek, over paper ballots in the arising democratic societies, to the use of electronic devices in modern polling stations” (Weber, 2006).

There is another good way to carry out voting process in which dependence on the election administrators or equipment can be minimized (Benaloh 2008). Such a method is called electronic voting or e-voting.

E-voting can be defined as the use of technology in the counting and collection of votes. Voters use their personal or public computers such as in library or internet café to cast the vote using internet. E-voting uses software and hardware to facilitate voting by individuals from either remote or poll-specific locations through a computer information system for casting votes. In modern polling stations the use of electronic devices is becoming more popular. The main purpose of elections to run is to verify its accuracy by officials, individual voters and also interested observers.

In a simple e-voting system, each voter can be provided with codes which, along with their name, will be used to post his/her vote by visiting the election website (Benaloh 2008).. This allows the voter to see if his/her vote is accurately recorded. This also enables one to perform an independent audit of the election process (Benaloh 2008).. But this simple e-voting system does not take into consideration the privacy of a voter which is an important factor in any election process.

Electronic voting is a hard computer science problem and electronic elections are security-critical applications of information technology. Electronic voting, which is controlled from supervised polling stations, threatens the secrecy which protects voters from bullying and peer pressure. It violates UK and European Human Rights as well as the United Nations treaties by breaking the secrecy of the ballot.

In order to do secure electronic elections, the software needs to be able to authenticate that the voters are actually the real voters and they haven't already voted. This voting system should be done secretly so that no one knows who voted for whom.

More over, it should be ensured that ballots are valid, unique and from an authenticated voter. Beside all this, some kind of audit trail is also needed which can disclose any failed or successful manipulations, this trail must be detailed and permanent, but again cannot break the secrecy and privacy of the votes.

This method is similar to electronic commerce where customers give up their privacy in buying stuff online and in which anonymous purchases are not permitted. For that purpose customers must provide their address, credit card number (which links to a whole set of customers information again) and so on. E-commerce's success does not mean that e-voting is possible. If all other problems related to electronic voting are put aside even then only the idea of an electronic audit trail is very cumbersome.

If it is assumed that the audit trail covers all aspects of the e-voting process, even then it is very difficult to prove that an electronic audit trail definitively shows that an election result has not been tampered with in some way.

Electronic voting, or e-voting, has been found to contain infixed risks for many errors, irregularities, and unsuitable manipulation. E-voting systems should ensure reliability, accuracy of the software, and the security of the system as well as the privacy and authenticity of the voter.

In this report, issues relating to e-voting and some of the proposed solutions to these issues will be discussed in order to have secure elections using electronic voting. The report will be focused on two main problems with E-voting which are stated below and then the report will contain some proposed solutions to overcome these two problems (Stopthelie.com):

1. Votes improperly counted. It means votes awarded to the wrong candidate or NOT counted at all.

2. “Ballot stuffing” which is adding non-existent “votes” to a candidate's total.

The project is planned to be completed in 7 to 8 weeks time.