Internet Voting in Austria: History, Development, and Building Blocks for the Future

Krimmer, Robert (2017) Internet Voting in Austria: History, Development, and Building Blocks for the Future. Doctoral thesis, WU Vienna University of Economics and Business.

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Abstract

This dissertation aims to investigate the origins of Internet voting, analyze several deployments of Internet voting technology in Austria and identify - based on these accumulated experiences - building blocks that can be useful in decision-making on and planning of future uses of Internet voting technology within Austria and throughout the world. In line with the goals of this thesis, it will address the following research questions: - How did Internet voting originate? - What experiences were noted in the process of implementing Internet voting in Austria? - What building blocks can be identified for developing future Internet voting both inside and outside Austria? Internet voting is part of a transformational movement that applies information and communication technologies to daily business activities. It is only logical that elections are also considered for applying electronic (remote) communication technologies. While early efforts were driven by the belief that elections could make easy use of the Internet, it was shown that while the principles have to be interpreted and consequently applied in a different way, the same principles can still be derived for Internet voting, like integrity, secrecy, transparency, accountability and public confidence. The need to have forms of decision making in electronic networks has been identified in its beginnings and has received continuous attention throughout its development. At the height of the excitement about the possibilities of the Internet, countries raced to become the first to run a legally binding election using electronic voting systems. While several candidates emerged (e.g., Costa Rica, Bosnia Herzegovina, Germany, United States), Estonia was victorious in 2005. To date, Estonia is the only country that has introduced this form of voting without any preconditions or other limitations. In Austria, the intentions to use information and communication technologies (ICT) in elections concentrated on parliamentary affairs. Spurred by the efforts around student elections in Germany, Austria sought to conduct Internet voting in 2000. In the years thereafter, considerable progress was made at WU Vienna University of Economics and Business (WU), and this progress spearheaded the debate in the early 2000s. At the beginning in the years 2001-2003, technical solutions were sought to verify voter eligibility and maintain voter privacy. Later, more sophisticated algorithms were developed, and functionalities like quotas in election commissions were added. The Federation of Students' elections in 2009 were a remarkable event that demonstrated highly contentious political debate around the topic. This debate continued after the elections, which were held in May 2009 and suffered from the intense debate and protests and consequential organizational shortcomings. The experiences also showed that accurate legal regulations are needed to show interaction with the constitutional legal texts and to ensure accountability to a remote electronic voting channel through legal means. International standards were a first step, but regulations based on actual experience were needed to show how remote electronic voting channels could be realized and how to avoid problems identified in pilot implementations. This practical knowledge also shows that sophisticated algorithms are not always the key to success. Rather, several key implementations make use of very basic technical means to realize the tasks given by law. One should not forget about the voters. They not only need to use such systems, but they also need to understand the processes in order to build trust. The constitutional court ruling lifted the election and ruled that the respective ordinance was not in line with the requirements of the law. Hereby, the court established higher requirements resulting barriers for offering Internet voting channels in future elections. While the election administration system, which was a pre-requisite for the Internet voting system, was discontinued in the election thereafter, it returned in recent elections where postal voting was offered. On the basis of the aforementioned experiences, twelve building blocks were compiled discovered. These include design decisions, such as the following: the form of electronic voting, adaptations of the legal base, the technical means for identification and secrecy, observation, control functions for the electoral commission, evaluation processes, transparency functions, ballot sheet designs, controlling the organizational context as well as providing options for planning and implementation. This framework therefore facilitates and eases the generation of feasibility studies and other analyses and decision making ahead of using Internet voting in an election. With little adaption it can also be used for the use of other voting technologies. This work utilizes theoretical work and knowledge from adaptations of legal texts. These texts cover a wide range of topics, including methods for implementing identification and anonymity functions in remote electronic voting as well as testing and certifying systems that require transparent procedures. The findings also show that implementing remote an electronic voting system is a complex topic. It requires trust in the election administration; otherwise, suspicion will arise when more technology is introduced and implemented in an election process. Remote electronic voting is one of the most challenging information technology (IT) projects.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Keywords: E-Voting, Building Blocks
Divisions: Departments > Informationsverarbeitung u Prozessmanag. > Produktionsmanagement > Taudes
Depositing User: Robert Johannes Krimmer
Date Deposited: 03 Oct 2017 08:08
Last Modified: 03 Oct 2017 08:10
URI: https://epub.wu.ac.at/id/eprint/5781

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