IT Services for Elections.
There have been major apprehensions about the role of technology in elections, as tinted by discussions in different countries. One area of concern is that a lot of the equipment is not owned by the public sector but there has been hardly any study on election technology ownership from a comparative viewpoint. A significant study is that even though most countries apply some form of election technology, the use of election technology for actual voting is relatively atypical. This means that EMBs that have a formal independent position is also in most cases independent from other players in the election process, such as other governmental agencies and vendors, when it comes to the application of technology.
Introduction: – The use of different types of technology in the electoral procedure is on growth. When thinking about e-enabled elections, however, there is a propensity to imagine e-voting and I-voting only. Many countries around the world, including some new democracies, apply forms of electronic voter registration and identification, such as by the use of biometrics.
These are the applications such as electoral registers and software for the registration of parties and candidates and for the accumulation and calculation of the results. Although forms of electronic voting, registration, or tabulation might be useful to improve churn out or help with the counting and tabulation process, its use increases questions about the governance of the electoral procedure. An election in which technology is used needs greater technical knowledge. If an electoral management body (EMB) does not have this knowledge, it may have to depend on private companies to help it in running the electoral procedure.
Moreover, a private company cannot be held to the same principles of independence, precision, and accountability that are required by governmental bodies. A lot is at risk after an election, mainly due to the conflicting approaches between the winners and losers on the fairness of that election. If both sides observe the outcome of the election as the result of a fair, lawful process, it is more likely that they will believe the government and be more satisfied with democracy as intact.
Election Management Technology: – With the rising application of technology in the election process, there has been an enhancement in studies and literature dealing with this topic. Amplified awareness of issues of security and convenience has emerged particularly regarding e-voting solutions, such as the application of voting computers and Internet voting. The existing study is focused on two main streams. The first area of target is on improving the security of the systems themselves. The other stream of study targets the voters and looks for examples of methods to improve the convenience of elections for voters.
Independence of EMBs: – Having independent election management is vital because, after an election, winners and losers of that election can differ in their approach towards the fairness of that election. If both sides see the outcome of the election as the result of a fair, lawful process, it is more likely that they will trust the government and be more pleased with democracy as intact. Thus, there might be no public administration to work more central to protecting democracy than providing for elections that correctly reflect voters’ purposes and ensure public confidence. An independent EMB can assist to ensure that elections are as reasonable as possible.
In their research on EMB design, International IDEA authors developed a typology that categorized EMBs into three categories:
- The independent model: – Elections are managed by an EMB that is institutionally independent and self-sufficient from the executive branch of government.
- The governmental model: – In these elections are managed by the executive branch through a ministry, such as the Ministry of the Interior, or through local bodies.
- The mixed model: – Under the mixed model, elections are managed by the executive branch through a ministry with some level of oversight provided by the independent top-tier component of the EMB.
Reasons for the use of ICT in elections:- Governments might use ICT in the electoral process for unusual purposes. Frequently, the beginning of ICT is observed as an essential step in the fight against declining turnout. In other cases, the improvement of the integrity of the voting process is the momentum for the introduction of ICT. An electronic voter registration system was generated to prevent voters from registering in more than one local registry. Biometric voter registration is to develop the correctness of the register and prevent voter scam. Additionally, the swift delivery of results might be a reason to initiate, for example, electronic counting of ballots. Finally, the convenience of the electoral process could be a reason to apply ICT.
Digitalization of the electoral process and challenges:- When executing ICT, however, the EMB faces a number of distinctive confronts. The first problem is a lack of information technology (IT) skills within the government itself. Governments not have the capability, resources, and personnel, not just to develop these solutions, but also to be able to sufficiently check them. This means that governments often have to option to contract private sector IT suppliers, also known as outsourcing.
There are good causes to involve manufacturers and vendors when introducing IT solutions. They are usually very awake of existing systems and can therefore provide precious information as to what is possible and what is not. Manufacturers and vendors can give advice on possible risks and benefits and experiences in other countries. They can give insight into the costs of the system they can provide and they are usually able to advise on the execution process. A concluding benefit might be that selecting an accessible system might be cheaper than building a new one. Currently, there has been an enhancement in EMBs trying to study from best and worst practices from others. Manufacturers and vendors that function across governments and functionalities are more awake of the business practices of other electoral bodies and could thus provide more informed insight into what improvements could be advantageous.
Outsourcing of the electoral process: – Outsourcing means that the release of public services is no longer done by government employees, but by other mediators. It is often done as an attempt to insert private sector management practices into the delivery of public goods, in the hope that the pressure from competition and the discipline of private ownership will lead to lower costs for the service.
Although outsourcing can thus be helpful and is not essentially something that should be avoided, its function in elections justifies more attention. Outsourcing can lead to an uneven association between big IT companies and less well-informed government agencies. Articulate the challenging side of this development, by pointing to the self-governing nature of the e-electoral process. They feel that it therefore could never be fully outsourced to commercial suppliers. Any successful technical and organizational improvement requires a stable alignment of the performers: the designers, the vendors, the users, and the sponsors. However, many of these performers are private organizations, which means that the use of technology leads to a complex form of private-public partnerships, where the presence of powerful mediators like the computer vendors, or the global consulting firms, means that more and more activities are delivered by non-state entities.
Ownership of ICT in elections:- An absolute area where the use of ICT in elections may be questioned is that of the ownership of the technology. Commercially available e-voting solutions are often based on proprietary source code. For commercial and security reasons, vendors are sometimes unwilling to provide admittance to this source code. This can be difficult since it hampers the transparency of the election process as it leads to fewer options for public inspection of the source code. Also, the disagreement presented by companies overlooks the prospective for internal programming mistakes in software, either intentional or accidental.
Influence of ICT on the independence of EMBs:- Although there has been studying on the use of ICT in elections, so far there has not been a proportional study on the use of technology in the election process that also examines the relationship between the EMB and the technology. More studies are required to understand how ownership of ICT and technological knowledge can weaken the independence of EMBs.
The first thing that becomes apparent when looking at the results is that the execution of technology in elections is extensive. It is not an exception, but the norm.
The use of technology for the registration process. Biometric voter identification is used in few countries. Some countries use technology for the counting process, there is technology in place for an automated event reporting system. Interestingly, the use of technology for the actual process of voting is quite low down, compared to the other uses.
It is interesting to note that the usage of technology varies quite a lot between different regions of the world. Another appropriate question is that of ownership of the technology used in elections. When glancing at the difference in ownership between independent and governmental EMBs, it is apparent that independent EMBs are far more likely to own the technology. Only governmental EMBs report that ownership in some cases is in the hands of private companies.
EMB, Electoral Management Body:- Finally, we asked about technological support given on Election Day. More countries report that they employ private companies to provide support on Election Day compared to the reported ownership of the technology. This specifies that even though in a number of cases the ownership of the technology lies with the EMB or another governmental body, the country still has to rely on a private company to provide support on Election Day.
Again, there is a difference between independent and governmental EMBs. Independent EMBs report more frequently that they provide the technological support on Election Day themselves, but also that they report lesser cases of the employment of private companies.
The association between EMBs and technology used in the electoral procedure is an understudied region. Interestingly, it is not necessarily the richer, older democracies that deploy ICT in the electoral process. Instead, older democracies are liable to be less likely to utilize technology for the actual part of casting the vote. Thus, the paper process of casting a vote is the process that voters are used to and believe, making it more difficult to change to technology. When it comes to the role of the EMB in the decision-making process, the question of ownership and support on Election Day, there is also a wide variation between countries.