2021 is a super election year. Elections are taking place in seven federal states and the general election is also taking place at the end of September. But how can the parties elect their candidates contact-free during a global pandemic? What are the opportunities and advantages of virtual voting for parties, and what are the challenges to overcome?
In this article, we get to the bottom of these questions and the legal basis for digital voting procedures.
Virtual voting by the CDU
The super-election year began in January with the CDU’s first completely digital party conference. In order for their party conference to take place, the CDU decided to hold a secure virtual election. Six polls were conducted with the POLYAS Live Voting. This was done using POYLAS CORE 3.0 with its encrypted voting which, thanks to cryptographic-mathematical processes, is easily understood by the voters while maintaining voting secrecy.
The COVID-19 law
The German government created the COVID-19 law as a legal basis for digital elections and virtual voting for all organizations. Stock corporations are able to conduct their general meetings virtually. The way was also cleared for membership meetings. For political parties, however, this exception for the meantime only applies for digital primary elections. This means that associations can make resolutions online even if their bylaws have not yet provided for video conferencing or other “virtual meetings”. Elections and general meetings can also be held during the pandemic—with virtual voting.
The challenge following the digital primaries is that they must be confirmed with a binding final vote by postal vote or ballot box. The party can recognize the online result, but it only becomes legally binding after conducting a subsequent postal vote.
Maximum flexibility in Self-Service
Setting up virtual voting and online elections takes just a few steps with the POLYAS Online Voting Manager. The POLYAS Help Center provides you instructions and FAQs on setting it up and the features that are available.
A further option is to benefit from the expertise of the POLYAS Election Managers. Our experienced employees will help you set up and support your election preparations with practical tips and templates. We offer up-front training before you carry out virtual voting with your voters. Just to make sure that nothing goes wrong on election day.
Save time and increase voter turnout with virtual voting
The advantage of online voting in times of the corona pandemic is not only keeping your distance from others, but also that you are not tied to any specific location. All you need for voting is Internet access and any device with a browser. Be it by computer, laptop or smartphone—with POLYAS your voters can vote from anywhere.
This barrier-free way of voting cuts down on organizational work for both sides: For you as the election officer and also for your electorate.
You receive the results of the voting within 60 seconds of each voting round. You and your members receive the result transparently and visible to everyone on-screen.
Trust is good – verification is better
Security is the top priority for any election. Just like voting secrecy, the voting process itself must be secure and understandable. In the case of a ballot-box vote, in theory anyone can observe the counting. So for virtual voting, too, the electoral-system security goals of confidentiality and integrity are equally in focus and should be verifiable by eligible voters.
Accordingly, any voter should be able to check that their vote has been cast and counted correctly. For this purpose, POLYAS provides verification codes that represent the votes of each eligible voter in encrypted form, and which they can download after casting their vote. Once the polling is complete, the electoral board can publish the verification codes and their corresponding votes. This enables eligible voters to check that their code is present and that their vote is correctly entered next to it. There is no way to infer the identities behind the verification codes.
IT security in focus
Election organizers need to aim for the maximum in IT security to be sure that the results of Internet-based voting are duly respected by all members and are the basis for future action by the institution. You need to look at the transmission paths used, analyze which end devices are used for voting, and check the system integrity of the provider. The German Federal Office for Information Security has provided a guideline for this purpose, which you can use to discuss the security goals of your virtual meeting and voting.
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