What is a secret ballot?
A secret ballot means that a voter’s choice is cast anonymously. It’s a method of protecting voter privacy, and also of preventing a voter from being intimidated or coerced to vote in a certain way.
We’re often asked how we maintain voter anonymity in relation to our online, SMS and telephone voting services. These electronic forms of voting take the concepts most Australian’s are familiar with and adapt them to the digital environment.
A familiar secret ballot
The upcoming Federal election is in the news at the moment. On polling day all eligible voters will:
Votes remain anonymous because the voter authentication process and the ballot paper are kept separate, and because the ballot papers are mixed together in the ballot box. The way in which an electronic secret ballot works isn’t so different to this. GoVote software creates two electronic files, one in a voter roll database and the other in a ballot result database, to maintain this separation. Let’s walk through the process.
Electronic secret ballot overview
Voters must first authenticate themselves against the voter roll. Typically this is with a numeric PIN and additional personal detail, such as a date of birth. The system confirms their eligibility, and that the details haven’t already been used to vote before granting access to the ballot. The voter roll does not include, or link to, any ballot result data.
The voter submits their vote by SMS, online portal or telephone prompts. The system checks that the vote isn’t invalid before generating a receipt, isolating the ballot response data and marking their PIN as “used” in the voter roll database. The votes are batched automatically in the ballot result database and cannot be linked back to the voter.
Receipts are stored with the batched results data. Voters can use their receipts to check that their vote was correctly submitted but still remain anonymous, which is a clear advantage over traditional postal secret ballot voting.
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