Digital Voting with POLYAS

The CDU implemented the first fully digital national party conference and set new standards with digital voting. This was the first time that POLYAS Live Voting was used to help the 1,001 delegates conduct a secure vote from the comfort of their homes.

Being able to enhance the CDU party conference with our voting system was of course a great honor for us and a milestone in the history of democracy. It’s wonderful that the CDU has addressed its social responsibility by opting for a digital solution. We need more of this forward-looking attitude. The project was particularly special for us because, for the first time, we saw live on television how easy it is to vote online with POLYAS and why trust in digital voting is justified.

Legal compliance in digital voting for over 20 years

The first POLYAS Online Voting System was in action as early as summer 1996 with over 30,000 eligible voters in Finland. From the very beginning, we focused on data protection and the software’s technical security. March 2016 saw the first online voting procedure certified by the BSI (German Federal Office for Information Security), the core of which was the POLYAS voting software CORE 2.2.3. The certificate demonstrates that if all procedures are followed, voting secrecy is preserved and each eligible voter can only cast their vote once. Now we are breaking new ground with POLYAS CORE 3.0 because, not only can voters verify their own vote, the entire election result is verified as well.

Trust is good – encryption is better

In the spirit of our namesake, Hungarian mathematician George Pólya, our systems are based on mathematical proofs and cryptographic security methods. In close cooperation with well-known research institutions, such as the German Informatics Society, we have developed a voting system that is a serious alternative to postal voting. This makes online voting a modern supplement to presence elections and meets the demands of a society that is mobile and flexible.

Live Voting at the CDU party conference in 2021 – how it worked

The election officer started the voting while the debates and lectures at the party conference were ongoing. At the same time, a hotline was set up to answer any questions delegates may have had about the voting.

The 1,001 delegates received election documents that included login data to the voting system, consisting of a randomly assigned voter ID and password. With these codes, the POLYAS system was able to uniquely authenticate each voter without knowing their precise identity.

Once the ballot was submitted to the digital ballot box, voters received a verification code that anonymously confirmed their voting choice. At the end of the party conference, the CDU electoral committee published the anonymous verification codes and the associated votes, allowing each eligible voter to check whether their decision was saved and counted as they intended. This required neither technical expertise nor expert knowledge, and the result of the voting can be considered to be secure and the election as having integrity.

The Political Parties Act in Germany currently still requires postal voting and, accordingly, the election was formally coupled with a postal vote, although the only candidates on the ballot were those with the corresponding majorities.

Find out more about POLYAS online elections >

About Anna-Maria Palzkill

As a communication scientist I am interested in the impact of technics on life among politics and economics. I want to trace nuances and am not afraid of big words.