IFES Releases Feasibility Study On Introduction of New Election Technology in Ukraine
At the request of the Ministry of Digital Transformation of Ukraine, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) conducted a comprehensive feasibility study on the introduction of new election technology in Ukraine. This study was made possible through the support of the United States Agency for International Development, Global Affairs Canada, and UK aid.
Based on IFES’ international experience, this study follows an elections-management centric approach. The research sought to ask interlocutors not “how do we implement Internet voting” but rather “what are the problems with elections in Ukraine, and how can technology help solve them.” This approach allowed IFES to engage with a range stakeholders in an open and candid discussion to inform its analysis and recommendations. Given the enormous scope of the topic and the limited time for the study, the report aims to be as concise as possible.
For any new technology under consideration for elections, the impact on core electoral principles must be meaningful:
- Does it add to electoral integrity?
- Does it help to bring more voters into the process?
- Does it make electoral officials and parties more accountable?
- And, importantly, does it build or, instead, threaten public trust?
IFES found that most interlocutors spoke of concerns regarding the manipulation of technologies, particularly in the context of elevated cybersecurity threats faced by Ukraine. The introduction of any new technology in elections in Ukraine would require greater-than-average risk analysis. In light of the ongoing conflict and history of cyber-attacks, more resources would need to be in place for cybersecurity than might be the case in other countries. Unfortunately, many interlocutors demonstrated a lack of detailed knowledge regarding Internet voting. This caused them to wrongly assume that if systems are protected from hackers, there are no other major issues to be addressed. In reality, it takes significant time and effort to responsibly introduce initiatives such as electronic/Internet voting. Its successful introduction requires inclusive and informed debate. For example, there needs to be understanding and consensus on how voters’ identities will be verified before they cast a ballot, and measures in place that safeguard the secrecy of the vote.
The study contains both long and short term recommendations for a range of actors in Ukraine. These recommendations include the following:
- The Central Election Commission (CEC) should focus its short-term efforts toward addressing long-recognized deficiencies in electoral processes, such as the management of results at all levels, the streamlining of voter list change of address procedures, and the professionalization of staff in the field. These initiatives should be given a legal basis and adequate resources.
- A research and development initiative, led by the CEC, should be launched. This initiative should seek to determine what models of electronic and Internet voting are appropriate for Ukraine, should commence as soon as possible.
- Finally, new voting technologies should be tested between 18 and 24 months prior to any election. Piloting in small scale elections could follow. Based on findings of this pilot, Ukrainians can then make an informed decision about whether to offer limited electronic or Internet voting options for Presidential and Verkhovna Rada elections in 2024.