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Pioneering electronic voting systems

Historically, paper-based voting has been the standard for democratic elections. However, the UK’s commission on digital democracy evidences recent shifts in this area. The University of Surrey has taken a pioneering role in this field by creating and implementing the world’s first verifiable e-voting system.

Members of the Department of Computer Science designed a secure voting system based on open source code. The system encrypts receipts so that votes remain completely secret and enables voters to check that their votes were accurately recorded.

Carefully adapted for visually impaired voters and non-English speakers, the system also provides greater accessibility for remote voters.

An early prototype based on the Pret-a-Voter design won ‘Best Design System’ at VoComp and the system was then adopted in 2014 for a state-wide statutory political election in Victoria, Australia.

This was the first time any state had used a full e-voting system for all voters. Over one thousand votes were cast with a very low level of spoilt ballots: 1.9 per cent, compared with spoils that have been as high as 10 per cent for paper voting.

This innovative system paves the way for greater democratic participation in elections and accessible voting for everyone. Following the success of the verifiable voting system at the Victoria election, Professor Schneider and his team are looking at opportunities for commercialisation and further rollout of the system.

To find out more about the voting system, visit the team’s Pret-a-Voter website or watch Professor Schneider talk about his experience of implementing an electronic voting system in this video.