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Trust, secrecy and accuracy in voting systems: the case for transparency


If voting systems are to be trusted, they not only need to preserve both secrecy (if requested) and accuracy, but the mechanisms that preserve these features should be transparent, in the sense of being both cognitively understandable and accessible. Electronic voting systems, much as they promise accuracy in counting, and on top of being criticized for their insufficient protection of secrecy, violate the transparency requirement.

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  1. 1.

    Mixed systems such as the one proposed by Mercuri (2002) allow for electronic voting but provide a paper ballot which is then cast in a standard urn. Only the paper votes are then counted, the electronic votes are used for early results only. To my mind this amounts to actually giving up electronic voting altogether.

  2. 2.

    See the Jan 23, 2008 answer of EU Commissioner Frattini to E-5724/07 Nov 20, 2008 Parliamentary Question by MP Satu Hassi about the violation of privacy and protection of personal data through the use of naked-eye invisible tracking devices on printouts.

  3. 3.

    The current state of the literature is rather skeptical about the possibility of actually meeting all the objections (Kohno et al. 2004). Citizen's concern has also grown. Countries such as the Netherlands have given up Electronic Voting Systems after having tested them, given the large number of encountered problems (Dutch Ministry of Interiors, May 16, 2008).

  4. 4.

    As a sample, consider the technical level requested for understanding papers such as Delaune et al. (2006), dealing with coercion resistance in ESV. I do not mean to criticize the results—I would simply point out that assessing the paper will be outside the competences of the vast majority of any population.


  1. Delaune S, Kremer S, Ryan M (2006) Coercion-resistance and receipt-freeness in electronic voting. Proceedings of the 19th IEEE workshop on computer security foundations. IEEE Computer Society, Washington, pp 28-42

  2. Jacobson AJ, Rosenfeld M (2002) The longest night: Polemics and perspectives on election 2000. University of California Press, Berkeley

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  3. Kohno T, Stubblefield A Rubin AD, Wallach DS (2004) Analysis of an electronic voting system. IEEE symposium on security and privacy 2004. IEEE Computer Society Press, May

  4. Mercuri R (2002) Explanation of voter-verified ballot systems, In: The Risks Digest, ACM Committee on Computers and Public Policy, Forum on risks to the public in computers and related systems, vol 22, Issue 17

  5. Origgi G (2008) Qu’est-ce que la confiance? Vrin, Paris

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Paper prepared under EU grant FP7-ICT-2007-C 213360 Liquid Publication. Thanks to Stefano Zacchiroli for useful comments.

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Correspondence to Roberto Casati.

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Casati, R. Trust, secrecy and accuracy in voting systems: the case for transparency. Mind Soc 9, 19–23 (2010).

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  • Social epistemology
  • Trust
  • Voting
  • Voting systems
  • Electronic voting