News and features

Surrey academics to develop innovative e-voting software

The University has signed a contract to create software that will enable the world’s first large-scale verifiable political election in Victoria, Australia.

The signing of the contract, between the University and the Victorian Electoral Commission (VEC) in Australia, has moved secure e-voting a step closer to implementation – which could make controversial election results a thing of the past.

The e-voting system will be used in Victoria’s state election in 2014, which will be the world’s first large-scale verifiable political election. The state of Victoria has a particular need for secure e-voting both to enable accessibility for the blind, partially-sighted and mobility impaired, and to enable votes from out of state and overseas voters to be returned more efficiently.

Surrey’s Department of Computing will be developing the ‘back end’ software for the e-voting system. The key innovation of the new system is ‘end-to-end verifiability’. Using cryptography, the software will be able to provide audit information about the election, so that voters – who will be given a receipt of their vote in encrypted form – can check that their encrypted vote is included. Ensuring the secrecy of the ballot, votes are decrypted in a cryptographically secure and verifiable way so that no one can tell which decrypted vote corresponds to which encrypted vote.

In addition to enabling voters to check that the voting system has processed the votes correctly, the code itself and its design will also be made public in order to foster greater trust in the electoral process.

Steve Schneider, Professor of Computing at the University of Surrey, and the project lead, comments, “Concerns about security in e-voting meant that Victoria wanted the most secure voting system they could achieve. The University of Surrey is actively involved in this area, having won ‘best design’ at the VoComp 2007 Universities Voting Systems Competition, and they approached us to adapt and apply our design to their election requirements. We are proud to have played a part in this important step in the evolution of political elections.”

Related news and features