This evaluation report gives an overview of the first use of e-voting in a legally binding election in Austria. It is available in German only, however a short summary in English is given below.
The use of e-voting for the elections to the Austrian Federation of students (Hochschülerinnen und Hochschülerschaftswahlen) was one of the most sophisticated e government projects in 2009. It was the task to complement the paper based voting with an electronic voting channel in order to create new opportunities to vote. Together with the implementation of e-voting the legal basis was adapted to include an electronic election administration.
This first of a kind implementation of e-voting in Austria was technically successful. Almost 1% (2.161) of the eligible students cast their votes electronically between 18th and 22nd of May 2009. For identification and authentication, they used the citizen card (the Austrian model of a smart card with digital signature) and a suitable smartcard-reader device, which was handed out for free. The anonymity was performed by using a cryptographic protocol in the post-electoral phase, similar to a paper based postal voting procedure. The e-voting servers were placed in two data centers of the Federal Computing Centre (Bundesrechenzentrum) to allow for fail-safe operation.
The use of the citizen card was appropriate because of its associated high safety and powerful legal standing. However the penetration of the citizen card is rather low at present. Therefore, the federal ministry of science and research started the initiative studi.gv.at with the purpose to raise awareness and penetration of the citizen card amongst students. While over 14.000 students made use of this opportunity, only a small portion of them used e-voting. Main reason to this is the general limited number of applications aimed at students which make use of this card. The general acceptance and with it the penetration numbers for this smart card will only be reached when a wide range and a large number of additional services are provided with appropriate functionality, especially for students.
The discussion around e-voting was rather controversial with clear pro and contra positions. On the one side the federal ministry of science and research and on the other side selected representatives of the federation of students. The discussion dominated the electoral campaigns and hurt the institution of the elections.
For future uses of e-voting in Austria the penetration of identification and authentication means has to be raised as well as a more positive atmosphere amongst the stakeholders has to be reached.