IFES and CoE release publications on election technology

Dec. 22, 2010, 4:04 p.m.

As democracies around the world increasingly use technology in their electoral processes, it is increasingly important for practitioners and policymakers to understand the potential risks and benefits of doing so.  The International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) and the Council of Europe have both released publications that shed light into the benefits and limitations of technology in elections. Direct Democracy: Progress and Pitfalls of Election Technology,  is composed of case studies from around the world that show the experience countries have had with electoral technology so far.  The Council of Europe's E-Voting Handbook is far more limited in scope, but offers a more basic summary of issues and definitions related to election technology.

From Direct Democracy: Progress and Pitfalls of Election Technology, by Micheal Yard:

There is growing consensus among election practitioners on a number of basic principles that should guide every electoral process. Although the list varies from one document to another, most agree, at a minimum, that all electoral processes should be accessible, secure, accountable, auditable, transparent, and sustainable.

In evaluating what technology to use in elections, these principles are especially important; otherwise, we may gain efficiency while sacrificing the fundamentals of a good election.

The marketing of technology has been so effective that there is a tendency in the early 21st century to equate technology with progress. For many, higher tech is synonymous with “better.” On the other hand, resistance to change can lead to objections that any new technology is “worse” than the existing way of doing things. We are better equipped to evaluate the pros and cons of election technologies if we resist both of these tendencies. A new way of doing things should not be judged either as good or bad simply because it is new, but should instead be evaluated upon the basis of whether it helps to make elections more or less democratic given the resources, risks, and alternative solutions available...

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