The Parameters and Context of Online Voting: Transparency and Trust

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online voting trust

There will always be different levels of trust expressed by social groups towards electoral results, be they traditional paper elections or innovative online elections.

In principle, citizens will trust what they know from past experience and what they perceive well enough to comprehend. As such, developing citizen trust in the online voting process depends on the level of transparency that the process provides and the effort put into developing citizens’ understanding of online voting technologies.

Transparency is essential in the deployment of online voting, especially in the cases where the existing traditional voting process includes a high level of transparency and possibility for public scrutiny. Social acceptance depends on the transparency resulting from citizens’ trust of the safeguards put in place to guarantee the verifiability of an electoral outcome. Therefore, although security and data protection safeguards are related to the different e-voting technologies used, the ways of conveying their existence and effectiveness to all interested agents is crucial to the future uptake of electronic voting. Voters’ perception on the level of security provided and the possibility of fraud and malpractice within the new voting arrangements will be key to the new channel uptake. Well worth a read is the overview on the transparency and technical measures to establish trust in Norwegian internet voting.

 A clear distinction however should be made between how “transparency” is being used and the processes it affects:

·        Transparency of operations integrated in the e-electoral process (how the result was produced) which is advantageous

·        “Transparency” of the knowledge produced during the process (who voted for whom) which contradicts the requirement for voter anonymity and that needs to be addressed specifically by ICT solutions

·        Transparency that with the introduction of ICT in the voting process and given the sensitive nature of the data being managed makes third-party participants auditability, trust and transparency of paramount importance.

·        Transparency by ensuring mirrored processes managed by third parties and separating related data to distributed trusted expert agents.   

Finding the solution that caters to all four transparency distinctions is fundamental to help boost citizens trust and expectations of the new electoral channels and election results.