The Operation BRAVO Foundation fosters the grassroots exploration and development of practical and reproducible electronic solutions that can significantly improve the overseas absentee voting process. Projects are structured as models that can be easily replicated using local and state procedures and infrastructure.
The Foundation’s initial project was conducted in 2008 in Okaloosa County, Florida, in partnership with the Supervisor of Elections.
Okaloosa County is located in Florida’s panhandle and is ‘home’ to over 20,000 active duty military and their dependents currently deployed around the world. This high concentration of overseas military voters means the county’s elections office is highly motivated to provide timely and efficient service to these ‘distance balloting’ constituents.
The county’s Elections Office has participated in numerous overseas voting pilot projects exploring alternative solutions throughout recent years but has been frustrated as none of these pilots has moved beyond the experimental phase. Consequently Pat Hollarn, Supervisor of Elections, began planning the Okaloosa Distance Balloting Pilot (ODBP). Her purpose was to develop a solution that could be implemented as a standard election administration process in the county. It was her belief this pilot could provide a solution model for other counties with large overseas military and/or civilian voter populations.
The Okaloosa Project set up three remote voting kiosks in hotel suites in England, Germany and Japan. The kiosks in England and Germany were open for ten days; the one in Japan was open for six. Each kiosk was staffed by two volunteer workers who set up the kiosk equipment and administered the system. The kiosk equipment, which consisted of off-the-shelf laptops, printers, touch screens and smartcard readers, was shipped to the locations by commercial carrier in a 4'x4'x4' packing box. The software and system security keys were hand-carried to the site by the kiosk workers. The kiosk was equipped with two laptops, each with an attached printer. One was used by the kiosk workers for voter authentication and the other by the voters for casting their ballots. Once the kiosk was set up the equipment was left in place for the duration of the voting period, but the system was shut down at the end of each day. The software, smartcards, and other controlled items were removed and stored overnight in a locked safe under the control of a kiosk worker. Each morning the kiosk workers initialized the system, verified the integrity of the software and the communications connections, and prepared the kiosk for receiving voters.
The kiosks functioned much like early voting centers. The voter came to a kiosk, presented an ID and was verified as eligible to vote by the kiosk worker through an on-line connection to the Okaloosa voter registration database (VRDB). Florida law requires voters to sign a Voter's Certificate to attest they are eligible to vote and they subscribe to the State oath. This document was printed by the kiosk worker and signed by the voter. The signature was checked against the one on file in the VRDB to authenticate the voter. The Voter Certificate contains a bar code which records the voter's ID. After verifying the voter's signature, the kiosk worker scanned the bar code with a reader that retrieved the appropriate ballot style ID and the voter's PIN from the system and recorded this data on a smartcard. The voter history was updated on-line in the VRDB to record that the voter had voted.
The voter inserted the smartcard in the card reader attached to the voting laptop to initiate the voting process. The smartcard data was securely communicated to the voting service on a remote secure server. The correct ballot style and a voter digital signature (released by the PIN) were delivered to the laptop. The voter used a touchscreen monitor to make their ballot selections. They verified their selections first on the screen, and in second term by comparing the electronic summary screen with a printed paper record of their choices. When the voter pressed the Cast Vote button, their ballot choices were encrypted, signed with their digital signature, and transmitted to the central server. All ballots remained stored with multiple layers of encryption on the central server until the Okaloosa Canvassing Board was ready to process the ballots. When the ballot was cast, the voting station printed a Counted as Cast receipt that the voter retained. This is a unique feature of the Scytl voting system that enables the voter to check the Supervisor of Elections website after the election to verify that their ballot was counted. The voter returned the smartcard to the kiosk work and deposited the paper record of their choices in a secure receptacle that the kiosk workers transported back to the Okaloosa Elections Office.
The day after Election Day, the Okaloosa Canvassing Board reviewed the list of voters who had cast ballots on the kiosk system to verify their eligibility. When this was completed, the Board authorized the download of the encrypted ballots from the central server to an election office laptop. After the download was completed, the integrity of the encrypted ballot file was verified. Then the laptop was disconnected from the network and the encrypted ballot file physically transferred to a standalone server for decryption and tabulation. The election definition had previously been imported to this server from the local election management system. The Board members entered their shares of the decryption key needed to decrypt the ballots. The tabulation server mixed the order of the ballots, and decrypted and tabulated the votes. The electronic tabulation was verified against the results of a manual count of the paper records returned from the kiosks. There were no discrepancies in the precinct totals.
All 78 of the Okaloosa ballot styles for the 2008 General Election were available on the voting system. A total of 93 ballots were cast, using 23 different ballot styles. One voter aborted their voting session by removing the smartcard from the laptop before they had cast their ballot. Because there were other people waiting, this voter decided not to re-initiate the session.