What Makes Online Elections Secure
Technology has revolutionized nearly every part of our lives, even changing how organizations vote by enabling online elections, which is even more relevant in our increasingly hybrid and remote workplaces, where we now meet, work and can even vote via online platforms such as Zoom.
Efficient, accessible, and cost-effective, the transition to online voting has made many elections run much more smoothly than using paper ballots — the only question is how to keep them secure.
Some have expressed skepticism about online voting security, but if the right strategy is implemented, online elections can be just as secure as a paper ballot — if not more so. In this post, we'll show you all the aspects you need to consider holding secure elections and which organizations would benefit most.
What Are Online Elections?
Online elections are simply those conducted with some type of virtual voting solution. Online voting tools include surveys, polling applications, or advanced online voting platforms that help you develop, launch, and tabulate your election results.
Which Organizations Need Online Elections the Most?
Online voting platforms are generally easy to use, and this is one of the most attractive features for organizations that choose them. But they bring other benefits to the table as well. Quick results, an intuitive interface, real-time feedback, and heightened security measures are some other advantages that online voting platforms offer over paper ballots. Some organizations that use them are:
- Businesses and corporations: Electing board members and executives
- Faith-based organizations: Voting on offices, budgets, and resolutions
- Educational institutions: Conducting in-class polls and tests to assess students' knowledge and attendance
- Training companies: Using group voting to foster engagement
- Member organizations (HOAs, unions, clubs, etc.): Electing new officials and approving resolutions
Online elections have also become a modern solution for hybrid and remote teams. Their simplicity makes them friendly to even the least tech-savvy employees, and the instant results allow hosts to quickly get each team member's feedback and keep employees engaged.
The Components of Secure Elections
Many organizations benefit from online elections, but one issue is important for them all: security. Without secure elections, electors may lose faith in the voting process and could develop negative views of your organization. Worse yet, elections that have been attacked by outside sources could be tampered with, skewing the final results.
You'll need to consider several factors if you want to host secure elections. While they may sound complex at first, VPOLL's online voting platform can simplify them all. Here's what you should account for.
Authentication and Authorization
For your secure elections, you need to ensure that each voter is who they say they are and has permission to vote.
The terms sound similar, but there's a difference between authentication and authorization. Authentication refers to the mechanism by which your voters can validate their identity, while authorization permits users to access certain data or perform specific tasks.
Some examples of authentication include passwords, security codes, or authentication apps, while authorization would be making sure that each elector is eligible to vote in a given election. At VPOLL, we worked with the Episcopal Church of Minnesota to improve election security by distributing passwords and security codes to each member (authentication). Our software also ensured that clergy members and laypeople only voted in their respective elections (authorization). When paired with our other security measures, the clergy elections ran smoothly in a virtual environment.
Once your elector's identity and permissions are confirmed, you'll still need to transmit their vote to your data storehouse without compromising it.
Data encryption is a highly secure way to convert plaintext data into ciphertext that requires a key to decode. There are several types of data encryption (symmetric encryption, asymmetric encryption, etc.), often classified by the length of the key needed to encrypt or crack it. For instance, a 256-bit encrypted message will require 2256 combinations to crack — more than even supercomputers can process.
VPOLL's online voting platform uses 256-bit encryption consistent with AES requirements, the gold standard of encryption that the U.S. Government employs. That way, your in-flight data can be safely transmitted without the risk of being cracked, keeping your elections secure.
Auditing and Verification
As with authentication and authorization, there's a difference between auditing and verification — though some overlap exists. While audits revisit the entire process and review any discrepancies to ensure an accurate outcome, verification allows electors to revisit their votes and make sure they were entered correctly.
Verification can include sending confirmation codes to individual voters that give a readout of their vote. It's impossible to work backward from these confirmation codes to manipulate a vote, and they ease voters' concerns that the election was conducted improperly.
If the outcome of an election is challenged, you'll need concrete proof that no votes were altered and that the process was conducted appropriately. An unbiased third-party voting management platform can provide a certified results report that examines whether there was any system downtime, security lapses, or indicators of tampering. They should also be able to provide other custom insights, like department-specific details, voter turnout, and voter choices (if the voting system was public).
Transparency and Accountability
Auditing and verification boost the credibility of your election, but voters should still be able to understand the process clearly and should hold each electing body accountable.
Transparency involves the availability of accurate information, and accountability refers to the electors' rights in disputing electoral outcomes and demanding a proper vote. VPOLL's voting platform improves transparency by giving clear, real-time feedback about the results of an election, which voters could access if they had concerns and permission. Our auditing features also enhance accountability by allowing for a recount or a whole new election if an error occurs.
Another key part of transparency is making sure that your voters understand all the terms and conditions that govern your election from the start. They may vary according to your organization, but some common guidelines you'll need to specify are:
- Eligibility criteria
- Voter registration
- Procedural rules
- Voting system
Education is another essential part of holding secure elections, as stakeholders at every level must have a clear understanding of the election guidelines and how to cast their online ballots. That's why finding an online voting platform with excellent customer service is a must. Make sure your provider can meet your needs beforehand.
There are many different types of voting systems. While the one you use may not directly impact election security, it will affect how smoothly the process goes. A simple first-past-the-poll voting system may be easier for some voters to grasp than a min-max Condorcet method, and some platforms may only support basic voting systems anyway.
VPOLL's software can tabulate votes according to a wide range of voting systems, like weighted voting, proxy voting, min-max voting, group voting, and majority voting, to name a few. Our versatility lets you choose which voting system works best for your application so that your elections won't be limited by your software.
Hold Secure Elections With VPOLL Today
Online elections are quickly proving to be the voting method of choice in today's tech-driven world. Their many benefits make them suitable for organizations of all types, no matter their voting needs. VPOLL's online voting selection features a host of functionalities designed to give you the most secure elections possible, so contact us for your free trial or demo today.
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