Introduction to e-voting project
Falling participation rates in elections and referenda and the perception that many citizens are losing interest in politics are concerns common to many Council of Europe member states.
Some member states are experimenting with e-voting, or electronically enabled voting as it is also known, in the hope that modernising their electoral methods and allowing voters to cast their vote via electronic voting machines or even from their PCs will increase participation as well as providing a quicker and more cost effective means of organising public consultations.
But if e-voting has the potential to bring about many benefits, it also carries with it certain risks. How to ensure the security and secrecy of the vote in this new environment? How to ensure that e-voting is accessible to all?
The Council of Europe, through its Integrated Project “Making democratic institutions work” (2002 – 2004) developed a set of standards which can be used as a reference by member states considering the introduction of e-voting programmes. These standards are set out in Recommendation Rec(2004)11 of the Committee of Ministers to member states on legal, operational and technical standards for e-voting, which was adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 30 September 2004.
Rec (2004)11 has a built-in follow-up clause, which means that it should be periodically revisited by the Committee of Ministers to see which impact the recommendation has had in member states, and whether any updating or revision was required.
In conformity with this clause, and in the framework of the project “Good governance in the information society” established in 2005, an intergovernmental meeting was held in Strasbourg in November 2006, two years after the adoption of the recommendation, to review developments in the field of electronic voting (e-voting) since the adoption of the recommendation. The meeting reconfirmed that the Recommendation had become accepted by member states as a valid and currently the only internationally agreed benchmark by which to assess and evaluate e-voting systems. Subjects which turned out to require further research and attention in this field included the accreditation and certification of e-voting systems, the development of guidelines on the observation of e-enabled elections and the need for codes of conduct for e-campaigning.
The Council of Europe convened a second meeting on 16 October 2008, to review developments in the field of e-voting since the last review meeting in November 2006. The meeting was organised in Madrid, in the framework of the fourth session of its Forum for the Future of Democracy which was dedicated to “e-democracy”. Member states agreed that the Recommendation on e-voting is still accurate and useful. At the same time, however, the experts present at the meeting felt that in the light of experiences and developments in the field of e-voting during the last four years, it might be useful to develop some additional comments to certain parts of the Recommendation. It was therefore agreed that the Secretariat of the Council of Europe would take inventory of the topics which member states feel would require such commentary. Topics which were already mentioned during the meeting are certification (protection profiles) and observation.
The recommendation and its explanatory memorandum are also available as an ISBN-publication. The project “Good governance in the information society” seeks to establish the Council of Europe as a clearing house for experiences.
. Key documents
. E-voting documentation (incl. EML standard)
-Workshop on the observation of e-enabled elections – Oslo, 18-19 March 2010-03-04
. Draft programme & Working documents
- Second meeting to Review developments in the field of e-voting since the adoption of Recommendation Rec(2004)11 (Madrid, 16 October 2008)
- First meeting to Review developments in the field of e-voting since the adoption of Recommendation Rec(2004)11 (Strasbourg, 23-24 November 2006)
. The work of the e-voting Committee
. Useful links