Everything you ever wanted to know about online voting

When this story first appeared on the itbusiness.ca Web site, it provoked questions from several readers. ES&S, the company that supplied the software system for Markham’s online voting, has responded to those questions. The answers are as follows:

The Internet/electronic voting article

is interesting, but what was the error rate?

No errors were reported or detected during the Markham election. The error rate for Markham is above the performance standard. We took extraordinary steps to ensure the process was accurate and reliable and we were extremely pleased with how smooth the voting process went.

Were there false positives and false negatives in the vote?

There were no false positives and only one minor issue involving false negatives. A small number of voters did not have a browser type compatible with the Markham system. Markham officials either modified their browser functions to accommodate the voter’s browser type, or Markham had the voter switch to a different browser.

Was there a manual backup to the electronic voting so that the counts could be verified?

Yes. A detailed audit file was generated that showed each vote cast in its raw form. These “”raw”” ballots can be hand counted by the jurisdiction if needed.

How do we know that the vote as electronically reported was correctly reflecting what the individuals who voted actually did?

First, the system goes through a pre-testing process to ensure that all votes are cast and recorded correctly by the system. Then, during the election, each voter is presented with a review page prior to submission of the ballot. The system holds each individual ballot so that the voter can double-check to make sure the ballot accurately reflects voter intent.

How is the electronic vote audited?

The system does not tally the votes but rather delivers the raw votes cast. Those votes are encrypted. The encryption key is kept by the local jurisdiction and is the only body that can access the votes and tally the results. The encryption process allows for seeding certain identified voters with a receipt trail.

This receipt trail allows for certain voters to review their individual votes prior to the tally in the system.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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