The role of electronic voting in the fight against COVID-19
Nearly 500 cities from 36 countries in all continents make up the International Association of Educating Cities (IAEC). This organization was founded in 1994 with the aim of highlighting the importance of education at the city level. In March 2020, as they do every year, the member governments of the association were preparing to hold their General Assembly, a meeting at which important decisions are taken such as the admission of new members or the approval of the Financial Report and the Action Plan. On this occasion, the event would take place in the city of Tampere, Finland. But a few days before the appointed date, the COVID-19 health crisis broke out in Europe. And in a short time it became a worldwide pandemic, truncating the planning of countless meetings like this one.
A configurable telematic voting platform
The Delegate Presidency of the association was forced to look for an innovative formula to hold the assembly telematically. Electronic voting has been around for more than sixty years. From punch card systems to online voting to paper-based e-voting, there is a wide variety of solutions. And while its use at the state level has a history of increasing development, it has never been as relevant for small and medium-sized organizations as the IAEC. But what is the legal framework that applies in these cases? What minimum level of security is required? How is it possible to verify the identity of members? And, not least, are there suppliers capable of implementing such a system in record time and at an affordable cost?
At Kuorum we have been helping public and private organizations in seven countries with their telematic voting since 2013. The first step in cases such as that of the IAEC is to analyze the regulatory framework that applies to it. Based on this, we propose an identity verification system. Authentication consists of several steps that are configurable (single, double, triple and/or biometric factor). And the idea is to find a compromise between the minimum recommended security and convenience for the end user when exercising his right to vote.
Working against the clock in different time zones
Difficult times call for courageous decisions. So the IAEC contracted our service just eight days before the assembly. In two days we developed the small modifications required to adapt the system to voting in different time zones - as the automatic opening and closing of the voting had to be synchronized for countries as far away as Korea, Brazil or France. During the weekend, internal tests and a test with real users of different ages and nationalities were carried out to evaluate the usability of the new process. And in the three days prior to the assembly, voters were informed of the new conditions.
Caring for our constituents and the planet
In spite of the speed with which this first virtual assembly was organized, participation rates were similar to those of the in-person voting in previous years. All incidents during the voting process were resolved by our call center. And more than half of the voters took advantage of the open response space to congratulate the Presidency for the quick resolution of the problem.
One and a half hours after the close of voting, we sent the IAEC a report in four languages with the results of the process, attaching a file with the voting records (logs) and another with the aggregated responses.
No positive consequences can be drawn from a black swan with such a devastating outcome in terms of the cost of human lives as this new coronavirus has entailed. It would be naïve and in bad taste to do so. It is an unmitigated misfortune. Just by limiting ourselves to the case at hand, we can conclude that thanks to electronic voting, the IAEC managed to continue its work of great social impact in spite of the crisis, while protecting the health of its members and of so many others. Moreover, by holding its assembly telematically, it saved 14 tons of CO2, 400,000 Euros in flights and more than 12,000 Euros in accommodation.
If you want more information about this case you can contact the IAEC. And if you want to know more about secure electronic voting, you can contact us.
"Thanks to online voting we were able to continue our work."
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