Directorate General of Democracy and
DIRECTORATE OF DEMOCRATIC INSTITUTIONS
Project “Good Governance in the Information Society”
English only/ anglais uniquement
Strasbourg, 8 November 2010
Third meeting to review developments in the field
of e-voting since the adoption of Recommendation Rec(2004)11 on legal, operational and technical standards for e-voting
Palais de l’Europe, Strasbourg
16-17 November 2010
Developments in Romania in the field of e-voting since the adoption of Recommendation Rec (2004)11.
Contribution by Romania
Developments in Romania in the field of e-voting since the adoption of Recommendation Rec (2004)11.
Romania currently relies on paper ballots and hand counting to tally votes during elections. While past elections in Romania have generally been considered free and fair, there have been a number of problems. Reports of vote buying, multiple voting, biased media coverage, and illegal, last minute campaigning have not been uncommon. The current procedures for processing paper ballots are slow and cumbersome. Lack of transparency in the counting and reporting of votes has also lead to considerable controversy.
In response to these issues and seeing the recommendation adopted by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe on 30 September 2004, the Permanent Electoral Authority (PEA) is currently attempting to define the core parameters and components of an Electronic Electoral Management System (EEMS) capable of automating the vote authentication and vote casting/counting processes, as well as the electoral administrative processes.
The EEMS project aims to improve the technical and institutional capability of the PEA, leading to significant efficiency and effectiveness gains to the electoral process. The EEMS will improve the ability to prevent multiple or other illegal voting, will create a faster more reliable vote counting and tabulation process, will improve the ability to deal with administrative and technical issues/events, and will also allow for real time monitoring of the election process and faster reaction times. Ultimately, after a successful implementation of the first parts of the EEMS, that will considerably improve the experience of Romanian citizens with the voting process, and will build a higher level of trust in election results, our country will be able to go to the next step and implement an e-voting system.
The EEMS project’s main functionalities will be as follows:
· core electoral process functionalities:
o voter authentication functionality.
o vote casting, communication, counting and reporting functionality
· support and management functionalities, including:
o network management and monitoring;
o a call center at PEA dealing with technical and administrative support during elections ;
o a document management solution for PEA and Electoral Offices;
o an issue/filling/contestation management solution for the election process;
o an asset management solution for equipment involved in the election process.
The EEMS will also include security solutions/equipment and a dedicated operating system for the stations at EBPSs. The various functionalities above will probably be integrated using portal technology.
Due to the fact that several institutional and infrastructure requirements are not yet in place, the initial implementation phase of the EEMS will not include an application to process the votes of Romanian’s residing abroad. However, integration of this functionality into the EEMS over the medium term is a priority of the PEA. Therefore, the initial EEMS architecture will be conceived to accommodate the future integration of overseas voting functionality, including e-voting possibility.
The first steps of the EEMS voting system that have already been done in Romania are the following:
· The start of a tender for implementing a National Voter Register, administrated by PEA, that has to be in use at the time of the Parliamentary Elections in 2012;
· Based on US funding, PEA and USTDA started a tender for a feasibility study that aims to provide a complete roadmap for the EEMS project for the next 10-12 years;
· The implementing of the second pilot project at Parliamentary by-elections for online checking of the voters ID-s in the polling stations and their right to vote. Also this project aims to provide better and faster ways to centralize the data from the polling stations and a better guidance for the officials through a specialized Call-Center.
On 25 of April 2010, at the by-elections for a member of the deputy chamber of the Parliament, in College no. 19 in Bucharest, the Permanent Electoral Authority implemented a pilot project that had the following main objectives:
a) Implementing an IT system that could ensure at the level of polling stations an electronic checking of the way in which the right to vote has been exercised by the electors who voted in order to:
· prevent illegal voting;
· monitor and inform the public opinion regarding the turnout;
· edit, verify and submit electronically the data summary for the polling stations concerning the recording of the results of the vote;
b) Putting into operation an IT&C infrastructure for each polling station, including the implementation of a data and voice communication system among these and the Electoral Bureau of the Bucharest Municipality;
The project has been complementary to the working method used during the electoral processes that is regulated at this time. Also this project will be retested on the 5 of December 2010 at the by-elections for a member of the deputy chamber of the Parliament, in College no. 3 in Hunedoara. The main difference between the two colleges consists in the fact that college no.19 was in Bucharest, a well-developed urban area and college no. 3 is mostly in a rural area and a big part of the surface is covered by mountains.
Description of the system
In order to report attempts of illegal voting, the pilot-project was based on an IT system that ensured collecting the PINs of the electors that voted in a central database and checking the existence of the PINs of the electors in the electoral Register corresponding to College 19.
As an alternative for the situation in which the Internet connection did not function or the polling station was too crowded, the verification in the electoral Register and the gathering of the PINs could be done by SMS.
The unusual situations (double PINs, PINs that have been omitted from the electoral lists, invalid PINs existing in the identity cards) have been solved by operators with a specific role that worked in the Call Center.
After closing of the polling stations at 9 PM the module for checking the PINs has been deactivated and the module for collecting data from the data summary for the polling stations was activated. The operators completed the data summary for the polling stations in an electronic form that signaled the errors from the validation keys and those were sent to the Central Electoral Bureau.
By the automatic counting, every hour, of the total number of PINs collected there was possible an exhaustive presentation of the turnout, and by through interpretation of the information gathered from processing the PINs of the electors that attended the vote, the presence could be divided on categories of gender and age groups.
The verification method of the PINs
The verification done by the operators from the polling stations consisted in the completion of the PINs (manually or by scanning) in a field and accessing the Check button and was reduced to the electors registered in the electoral lists of the College 19. Verifying the electors omitted from the electoral lists, of those with invalid or duplicated PINs and the removal of the PINs that were mistakenly introduced have been requested to the operators from the Call Center.
When a voter showed up at the polling station, the operator introduced (manually or by scanning) the PIN from the Identity card into the application, accessed the Check button and waited for an answer. The possible situations and the messages sent by the system were as below:
· For the PINs of the voters that were found in the electoral lists of that specific polling station and who didn’t already vote, the answer given by the system in return was „PIN.....valid, the elector can vote. Page...., position...”.
· For the PINs of the electors that appeared in the electoral lists of the College 19, but for a different polling station, the answer given by the system in return was „The elector having the PIN......shall vote at the ..... polling station”. For the situations in which the elector has given proof that his address corresponds to the polling section where he went or if he is a member of the polling station and according to his domicile he should have voted in a different polling station of the College 19, the operator had the possibility to register in the system the PIN on supplementary lists.
· For the PINs of the electors that were not shown on the electoral lists of the College 19, the response given in return by the system was „The elector having the PIN.... cannot be found in the electoral lists of the College 19, if the address from the Identity card corresponds to your polling station contact the Call Center!”. In these situations it was necessary to contact the Call Center because the system could not interrogate automatically anything else but the list of the persons that have a restricted right to vote and have their domicile in the area of the College 19.
· For the PINs of the electors that have lost their right to vote, the answer given in return by the system was „The elector having the PIN ..... does not have the right to vote!”
· For the PINs of the electors that have already showed up in the database containing electors that voted, the answer given in return by the system was „The elector has already voted in the polling station ..... at the time .... and has been verified by … through … . If the elector denies having already voted, contact the Call Center!”
Filling the data summary for the polling stations
After the closing of the polling stations, fact that was noted in the application by the operator of each polling station, the PINs could not be introduced anymore, and the operators filled the electronic form corresponding to the data summary for the polling stations with the values obtained by counting the ballot papers.
Conclusions of the pilot
Reporting the attempts of illegal voting
By using the IT&C system involved in the pilot project there have been identified a series of illegal voting attempts, which without this system could not be proved at the level of the pooling sections:
· Electors that didn’t have the right to vote (that have lost their electoral rights in a Court of Law). In the classical way this persons are deleted from the lists, but they can try to vote sustaining they were not on the list by a mistake, and they could vote on a supplementary list.
· Electors with Identity cards that was declared lost and not having the domicile in the College 19. Although it is forbidden by law to keep an ID card if is declared lost or stolen, throw this project we found a number of persons that tried to vote with one of this cards, attempt that in the classic system of lists could hardly be found.
There weren’t noticed any attempts of multiple voting, or attempts of persons below 18 years to vote, but the system, in the eventuality of such attempt, was designed to send a message as described above.
The scanning devices of the identity cards
Taking the PINs from the identity cards was done 90% through the equipment of optical reading of characters.
There have been taken PINs manually from the old identity cards, from the identity cards that were deteriorated of with different anomalies, but also because of the express request of the president of the electoral bureau of a polling station of not scanning the identity cards.
Using this equipment mostly eased the effort of the operators. In order to improve the application we proposed that in the future the application should have included the facility of interpreting the expiring date of the identity card and the notification of the operator, respectively the president of the electoral bureau of the polling station.
Filling and sending the data summary of the polling station in electronic format
After the closing of the voting process in the polling stations, the operators had the possibility to fill an electronic form corresponding to the data summary with the values obtained after counting the ballot papers. The procedure of checking the keys resulted in warnings that have been ignored in 5 polling stations, fact that generated a re-counting of the data corresponding to the mistakes discovered (the number of signatures from the permanent electoral lists, the number of blank ballot papers).
The Call Center
At the premises of the Department for the Evidence of Persons and Database Administration there has been installed a Call Center with 7 operators (3 from DEPDA, 3 from STS, 1 from PEA). The Call Center was called for technical, organizational, judicial or legal problems or related to the electoral lists.
The communication between the polling stations and the Call Center has been done through messages sent by email and by phone.
For an electoral process at national level it is imposed to organize such structure at the level of each county and to implement a soft specific for call centers.
The informatics application
Most operators from the polling stations used the application according to the instructions, but in many situations there has been requested support from the technical staff that ensured support at the locations.
The alternative of sending the PIN for checking through SMS was not used during the elections because the Internet access in the polling stations was not interrupted and the low turnout.
The interrogation of the database with the generic name of Electoral Register was done through the web service exposed by the Directorate for Persons Record and Databases Management. It was not necessary to use the backup solution of interrogating the electronic copy of the permanent electoral list existing at PEA.
The errors in centralizing the data were cause 100% by the operators and the presidents of the electoral bureaus of the polling stations. Given the fact that from a technical point of view the IT system worked without mistake, for using this system in a future scrutiny it is imposed a better choice of staff from the polling stations.
The IT&C system used for the pilot project worked in very good conditions both at testing and in production area, and the performance tests showed its scalability for an electoral process that could comprise more than 18.000 polling stations.
As a result of the analysis presented we consider that the pilot project, technically speaking, achieved all its objectives and we also consider that it can be generalized for future elections. Such a system, implemented at the level of the polling stations would have a very important role in preventing electoral fraud and identification in real time of the attempts of illegal voting.