What is electronic voting, how does it work and what risks does it entail?

What is electronic voting, how does it work and what risks does it entail?

What is electronic voting

Residents abroad, students, non-resident workers and people in special health conditions will be able to vote remotely. A novelty that could facilitate electoral participation, but also subject to risks

Electronic voting procedures in Brazil, 2018 (photo: Evaristo Sa / Getty Images) Starting from the next political, European elections or the next referendum it will be possible to participate to the experimentation phase of electronic voting. The Ministry of the Interior has in fact issued the implementing decree which identifies the methods for using the dedicated one million euro trial fund and the guidelines that will regulate suffrage. The so-called i-voting, that is the internet voting procedure that allows those entitled to cast their vote wherever they are, will be available for residents abroad, for students and out-of-home workers and for people in particular health conditions. . This is an important innovation that could facilitate electoral participation, but also be subject to many risks and problems. At the same time, while this experimentation is starting, in Italy it is still impossible to collect signatures online for referendums or to present a party in the elections. In this case it is still necessary to have a banquet and papers, for the collection of data and autographs.

Who will be able to vote through i-voting?

The new voting method will concern at least 7 , 5 million citizens, of which 4.5 resident abroad and 3 million away from home. In addition, people with disabilities and special health needs and anyone who, "for reasons of work, study or medical care", is in a region other than that of the municipality in which they are registered or registered on the electoral lists will have the right to electronic voting. .

How can you vote?

Electronic voting can be expressed through a computer, tablet or smartphone owned by the voter or the electrician, or in the stations made available by the most electoral offices. neighbors. The vote will be expressed through a web application which can be accessed from any device connected to the internet, through one's digital identity.

Who manages and controls the digital platform for electronic voting? The electronic voting system will be managed exclusively by personnel authorized by the Ministry of the Interior, while the Agency for Digital Italy (Agid) and the National Cyber ​​Security Authorities will verify its development, technical requirements and correct functioning before each electoral round.

Who is the owner of the personal data communicated by citizens?

The Ministry of the Interior is the sole owner of the processing of personal data.

Risks to the security and validity of the electoral process

While electronic voting can be considered a tool to make elections faster, cheaper and safer, it could prove to be a system but less efficient and safer than the traditional one. For example, in case of fraud, with a fully centralized electronic vote it could be impossible to identify the section in which an irregularity was committed and this would result in the cancellation of the entire election, turning a single fraud into a tool to block all the democratic process. Other dangers may concern the attempt to tamper with the results by other states, the theft of personal data by cybercriminals or the possibility of not seeing the independence of the voters protected, not being able to guarantee the condition of secrecy and isolation of the cabin. electoral.

To ensure the efficiency and safety of electronic voting, the ministry will therefore have to guarantee its anonymity, authenticity, secrecy and verify that the vote has been cast only once per person. Furthermore, the voting platform must be equipped with very high security standards to protect users' personal data and prevent any computer tampering with the results. However, any manipulation of the voting software could be difficult to detect and, as happened in Russia in 2019, the platforms could be easily hacked if not equipped with state-of-the-art encryption systems.

First phase : the simulation

This first phase will be used to verify “the correct functioning of the voting and electronic ballot system”, the impact on the electorate and costs. It will take place in a limited manner in some consulates or territorial areas, on the basis of their "technical-organizational skills" and will have no legal value. The simulation will involve a "significant sample of voters", who will be informed of the possibility of participating through a communication campaign organized by the institutions.

Second phase: experimentation

Once the simulation, if there have been no critical issues related to the security of the system and relating to data protection and the will of the electorate, the experimentation phase will be entered. At this stage, electronic voting will be an alternative method to traditional voting and will have legal value. Voters and electricians will then have to choose in advance how to exercise their right to vote, on a set date before election day.

How to participate in the simulation and experimentation?

To participate in both phases, electors and electricians will have to send a communication to the electoral office of the municipality in which they are registered. Following the verification of the authorities, the voter will receive a qualification attesting to possession of the right to vote and, together with the digital identity, allows the citizen or citizen to vote.

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