DESIGN AND IMPLEMENTATION OF AN ELECTRONIC VOTING MACHINE

CHAPTER 1

INTRODUCTION

1.1  Background of the Study

Democracy has become generally accepted as the best form of government. One key factor for this international acceptance of democratic governance is the degree of power given to the citizenry in deciding the affairs of the state such as electing their leader, referendum and public polls.

At the dawn of the third millennium, countries and states globally, are exploring new frontiers by attempting to connect with their citizens through novel technologies. In relation to technological progress, exploring methods of increasing involvement in democracy and sovereign institutions has taken centre stage, as electronic participation channels present a bidirectional communication gateway between the “people” and their elected representation. Recognizing the benefits offered by electronic solutions, political parties are recruiting web 2.0 information systems, including social communication networks (such as Face book and Twitter) to mobilize their core supporter groups and attract a younger audience, hoping to alleviate the low voter turnout problems, by demonstrating a versatile and more progressive profile. In these years, numerous information policies and instruments have made electronic governments a global reality. Since their initial introduction, electronic government services have been continuously maturing and evolving in availability and sophistication. Progressively, Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) are being introduced into various aspects of the electoral process. It is now a common fact; that back-end computers are already an integral part of almost all elections held internationally. Even in countries not officially exploring electronic voting implementations, back end computer systems are most possibly introduced at some stage of the electoral process, either for ballot counting or for voter list generation. Voter registration databases are now automated, ballots are cast into computer based equipment in an ever increasing number, and end of day results are often calculated and transmitted electronically between municipal headquarters and to the media. These back-end “uncertified” computers may hold more dangers than an efficiently designed and protected electronic voting system. History shows that electronic voting cannot be stopped in our technically oriented society, where an increasing number of processes are mapped into the electronic world and voters become more and more mobile (Melanie, 2009). It is becoming apparent that the basic question no longer focuses on whether ICT should be accepted in the electoral process, but rather on what kind of technology should be implemented and to what extent.

Electronic voting system (also known as e-voting system) denotes a voting system where the verification, authentication, actual voting and tallying of votes in a political election or referendum employs the use of electronic technology (Schwenk, 2001). E-voting technology includes: punched cards, optical scan voting system, direct recording equipment (DRE), specialized voting kiosks, stand-alone voting kiosks. It can also involve the transmission of ballots and votes via telephone, private computer network or the internet. In generally two main types of e-voting system can be identified (LeBlanc 2002).

  • E-voting system which is physically supervised by representatives of election management body (EMB). DRE, stand-alone-voting kiosks all fall into this category.
  • Remote e-voting via the internet (also known as I-voting) where the voter cast his vote without going to the polling station.

In recent years, official pilots and trials have been held internationally, by a plethora of countries, aiming to evaluate the benefits and drawbacks of electronic voting, but evidence does not seem to be conclusive; mostly due to the diversity of the systems implemented, which are meant to support a multifarious range of contexts and requirements. Although the benefits of introducing electronic voting systems are often stated, concerns which are most often voiced are not just based on the security risks, but also sociological and political implications, that may be raised from the introduction of this technology. Digitalizing communications between governments and the “people” is a process necessary to be viewed within a wider framework. Unmistakably, an examination of e-democracy, and evidently e-voting, cannot be performed in vitro; in isolation from other scientific and academic fields, as a purely technological approach would lead to sterile “engineering” results, while a number of affecting fields operate in concert, to structure what is perceived as the field of electronic voting. Electronic voting is a social and political project much more than a technical project.

Electronic voting systems have been in use since the 1960s when punched card system debuted (Heeks, 2001). Their first wide spread use was in the U.S.A where 7 counties switched to the method for the 1964 presidential election (Vassiliou, 2002).

In Brazil, e-voting was introduced in 1996 when the first test was carried out in the state of SantaCatharina (Varvarigou, 2010). Since 2000 all Brazilian general election has been completely on e-voting system.

India, Venezuela, Netherlandsand Switzerland have incorporated fully e-voting system into their electoral process.

Internet voting system has also gained significant popularity. In 2005 Estonia became the first country to conduct legally binding local elections using the internet as a means of casting votes.

E-voting technology has been adopted in part in previous elections in Nigeria. In the 2015 Nigeria general election the independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) adopted the smart card reader machine to verify and authenticate voters during the elections. This resulted in improvement on the quality of the elections as reported by several international and local election observers.

Electronic voting technology can speed up the entire electoral process as was demonstrated by the speed at which the 2000 Brazilian general election which took only 75 minute after the close of election to determine the winner of the election. E-voting technology can also reduce both the short and long term cost of elections. In the short term it can reduce the manpower required in the conduct of election by almost 75%, eliminate the cost of producing specialized Identity Cards for voters and most interestingly remove the cost of printing ballot papers and result sheets totally. In the long term, there will be significant savings from the reduction in numerous post-election litigations that usually characterized the traditional voting system.

E-voting can also improve accessibility for disabled voters, and eliminate multiple voting completely. All these will positively affect the outcome of election in Nigeria and change the way politics is played in my country forever.

The above cannot be said of the traditional balloting system. In the traditional system electoral violence orchestrated as a way of rigging election, corruption on the part of election officials, multiple voting all work to undermine the outcome of the election. The cost of conducting election using the traditional system is also prohibitively high. This is because of the cost of printing specialized ballot papers, result sheet and the large manpower requirement. In all, the human factor determines the outcome of the election. There is also the issue of delay in the announcement of the outcome of the election.

These challenges are completely eliminated by the automated stand-alone e-voting kiosks since its functionalities enables the voter to excises his franchise with minimal human contact thereby making the process easier, faster and more credible.

In this project an automated standalone e-voting kiosk was designed and constructed. It allows a voter to walk into the polling unit for which he has been registered prior to the election, insert his fingerprint on the kiosk which verifies the voter using automated fingerprint identification system (AFIS). If the voter is verified, the kiosk automatically grants access to the voter through it access control unit. Once the voter is authenticated he gains access to vote. At the close of voting the results of the election are automatically tallied and winners for the polling unit displayed outside the voting kiosks and a true electronic copy of the result is automatically transmitted to the central database for a final collation. A back up copy of the result is also stored in a tamperproof removable memory for the purpose of auditability.

Visiting an electoral poll, waiting in line, and thumb printing on ballot paper, does seem apparently out dated for a society with the ability to transport “bits” of information across borders in microseconds. Additionally, the voting procedure seems alarmingly error-prone and open to fraud and manipulations. This does not generally inspire confidence on the electorate; two clicks away from casting a vote. Silently, while election turnout has been steadily decreasing, computers and ICT's have been appearing in different stages of the electoral process. These “black-box” computers and systems have been introduced for tasks ranging from voter registration to result collation, but they do not seem to be sufficiently protected. At around the same time, after the Florida voting fiasco in the US, similar problems were making the news, with headlines such as; “Cybercriminals are stealing your votes”, “Hackers in your local vote recording machine”, “e-Voting machines store your bank account number!” and such...   From a computer and information security perspective, the idea that there was no such thing as a perfectly safe computer or network seems to be true. Our inter-networked lives are constantly threatened from a number of vulnerabilities and weaknesses, existent deep within these technological solutions; but cryptography, digital signatures and other security countermeasures seemed to be (almost) successfully tackling these threats, so why wouldn’t they work in an electronic voting environment? Traditional voting processes do not seem that secure either though. In 2011 the concept of hiding a piece of paper in an envelope to maintain its secrecy is becoming fuzzy; as anonymity can easily be broken with cheap fingerprint technology (not to speak about DNA traces).

This project will revolutionize politics and the electoral process in Nigeria, increase the confidence of the electorate that their votes really count and ensure that election are done on the basis of one man one vote. This project will also eliminate all forms of electoral frauds and increase citizens’ participation during election.

 

1.2 Problem Statement

This project work is to design and construct an automated electronic voting machine that will:

  • Militate against electoral fraud including: multiple voting, ballot stuffing, result      manipulation etc.
  • Reduce the cost of conducting election in Nigeria.

1.3 Aims andObjectives of the work

The aim of the project is to design and construct a standalone e-voting machine.

The specific objectives are:

  • To apply the use of microcontrollers for standalone voting system design.
  • To implement voter’s registration and verification with biometric information (finger print) for the machine.
    • To develop an algorithm for voters’ and vote verification and authentication.
    • To automate the voting procedure.
    • To collate result summary using GSM technology (SMS) and instant terminal displays.

1.4Significance

The promotion of free, fair and credible elections is the main thrust of this project. The automated stand-alone e-voting machine adopts electronic technology to solve the challenges that threatens the conduct of free, fair and credible elections in Nigeria. The system is designed to be user friendly and completely interactive.

1.5Scope of the Project

This project work applies only to automate a stand-alone e-voting machine in which automated fingerprint identification system is employed to verify voters. GSM technology was also employed for the wireless transmission of election resultand the use of passwords by certified operators of the machine to switch between two unique features: enrolment of voters and voting session was implemented. The two sessions; enrolment and voting are authorised by different personnel on different days depending on the election calendar.

1.6  Applications

Electronic Voting Machine is a simple electronic device used to record votes in place of ballot papers and boxes which were used earlier in conventional voting system. This machine can be used in organisations where the heads of various departments are elected rather than appointed. It can be used for elections in a local government, state and even a whole nation as it is a better form of voting system as against the traditional system.

1.7Outline of Remaining Chapters

Below is a brief summary of what the remaining chapters contain:

Chapter 2: This chapter covers the analysis of existing system and a brief review of the principles behind the system.

Chapter 3: This chapter covers the methodology, design calculation and the mode of operation.

 Chapter 4: This chapter covers the construction of this work, testing, results and observations

Chapter 5: Conclusion and Recommendation which will contain problems encountered and recommendations.

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