During Republican presidential caucus in Utah on the 22nd of March, voters had the opportunity to vote using the traditional methods, or to vote online. This was made possible with the use of a secure i-voting system developed in the Smartmatic-Cybernetica Internet Voting Centre of Excellence, based in Estonia, a country in Northern Europe that implemented nation-wide internet voting already in 2005 and has since used it in all local and parliamentary elections, including European Parliament elections.
Sven Heiberg, the CEO of the Tartu-based competence centre explains that the centre was created as a joint venture between Cybernetica and Smartmatic, two global leaders in electronic voting systems.
„The software used in the Utah primary elections was developed in Estonia, but for the Estonian elections, we use a different system due to the differences in the local infrastructure,“ Heiberg explains. Namely, Estonia uses its ID-card infrastructure for secure authentication and digital signature purposes, while in Utah, all voters had to pre-register in order to be eligible to vote online.
„All voters had to provide the necessary data to be validated by the Republican party, after which it was possible to generate the secure PIN-codes that were distributed via e-mail or SMS,“ Heiberg explains. „The PIN-codes act as a security measure for voter validation and also provide the means for encryption.“
The system has also been used in Chile, where eligible voters in the Maipu region were engaged in the budgetary decision making, using the same type of PIN-codes for authentication.
Heiberg believes that there will be more applications for internet voting in the future, as remote elections will become more of a necessity. „The necessity for remote elections is on the rise, so people will always turn towards methods that are more secure than, say, voting by mail“.
The technology was provided to the Republican Party of Utah by Smartmatic, global leader of the electronic voting industry, enabling hundreds of millions of voters cast over 2 billion ballots in thousands of government elections around the world.
Smartmatic-Cybernetica Centre for Excellence for Internet Voting was created in 2014 as a multidisciplinary centre of research and development. Its goal is to study and develop the process of voting over the Internet from all angles: social, political, organisational, procedural and technological.
Cybernetica is a R&D intensive ICT company that researches, develops and manufactures software solutions, light signalling and telematics products, maritime surveillance and radio communications systems. Cybernetica has been an active counterpart in developing critical e-Governance systems, such as the Estonian X-Road, i-Voting, e-Customs and others.