Over the last four decades, information technology has begun to transform the electoral process---perhaps the most foundational process upon which democratic societies are built. Computers are gradually replacing manual parts of the democratic process by, for example, tallying results in Excel spreadsheets, predicting exit polls, or by computing seat assignments to parties in parliament (since 1962 in Denmark). With every such transformation, the overall process becomes more efficient, informative, and economical. However, there is a risk of the process becoming less trustworthy. The deployed technology tends to be complex and therefore prone to programming error and vulnerable to malicious attacks. These problems have an adverse effect on the very foundations of democracy. Voters are less likely to trust the electoral process, which inevitably leads to lower voter participation and cynicism.
The hypothesis of this research project is the following:
Is it possible to modernize the electoral process while balancing the trust of the people on the trustworthiness of the deployed technology?
In order to provide evidence in support of this hypothesis, we propose first to design a rigorous software engineering principle, which we call trust by design that reproduces the trust-instilling elements of the conventional process in an electronic infrastructure. Second, we develop electronic election technology based on the trust by design principle. Third, the municipalities of Frederiksberg, Aarhus, and Copenhagen will help us evaluate the technology empirically in order to analyze the social, political and cultural implications inherent in digitally transforming the democratic process. The results of this project will provide KL and other decision makers important and invaluable insights into how to modernize the democratic process without jeopardizing the fundamental principles upon which democracies rest.
The DemTech project if financed through a generous grant from The Danish Council for Strategic Research by the Programme Commission on Strategic Growth Technologies.
Our mission is to assist electoral management bodies with the development of digital election systems, the evaluation of threats and challenges, and the analysis and management of risks.