UK leads in "readiness for e-voting"
The UK is closest to being able to adopt electronic voting, according to research presented this week. Robert Krimmer and Ronald Schuster of the Austrian Competence Center for Electronic Voting and Participation (E-Voting.CC) presented the results of a benchmarking project at EVOTE08, which compares the readiness for introducing e-voting systems for political elections in 31 countries according to a "E-Voting Readiness Index". The two researchers started the project in 2005 with the intention to analyse the environment for electronic voting – especially internet voting – in various countries. They included all 27 members of the European Union as well as Russia, Venezuela, Switzerland and the US.
The two authors explained that they used a set of about one hundred indicators grouped in four categories according to environment. The "political environment" included general principles of democracy like the "separation of church and state" while the "legal environment" included the guarantee of citizens' voting rights and secret ballots. The "information society" environment included indicators like the "digitalisation of landline telephone networks" and the "cost of internet access and use". The special "e-voting" environment contained criteria like whether there has been public discussion of the topic in the respective country or how many e-voting trials have been conducted. Krimmer explained the aim was to "end up with figures".
The results put the UK at the top of the list with a "readiness index" of 70.60, followed by the US – 66.68, Estonia – 66.60 and the Netherlands – 62.90. Germany was in eighth place with an index of 50.07 while Poland – 33.87, Bulgaria – 29.37 and Cyprus – 38.17 ranked at the bottom of the list. Among other things, the UK's first place is due to its "excellent" legal environment. Krimmer and Schuster's working paper said "We found no restrictions in the electoral law". The paper will soon be available on the Competency Center's web page; in addition, a whole variety of electronic voting options from voting machines to kiosk voting and internet voting have already been tested in the UK. Surprisingly, the Netherlands' withdrawal from any kind of e-voting did not compromise the country's "E-Voting Readiness Index"; it appears that the political, legal and IT environments are conducive to reversing the withdrawal.
When queried during discussion, however, Krimmer had to concede that the means used for translating the "soft" indicators into "hard" figures were rather subjective. For example, the audience asked how the researchers had determined the numerical weightings of the individual factors. "Using our experience", answered Krimmer and added "and guided by our scientific intuition about their respective importance".