A Brazilian network security company with a decade-long relationship with the country's election authority has signed a contract with the U.S. company Safevote Inc. that will give Brazilians their first opportunity to cast ballots over the Internet in this year's federal election, the two companies said today.
Safevote, of San Rafael, California, will provide software tools and protocols necessary to ensure that ballots cast over the Internet are secure, anonymous and authenticated, Kurt Neumann, vice president of marketing for Modulo Security Solutions, said after a symposium on the future of Internet voting sponsored by the Brookings Institution.
In Brazil, where voting is mandatory, an estimated 90 million people are expected to vote in the November elections for the Senate and the House of Representatives. That election will provide the first opportunity for Brazilians to cast ballots over the Internet. Initially, however, only about 200,000 absentee voters will be able to cast their ballots over the Internet at designated voting stations.
"This will be at embassies, schools and other polling stations where there will be a means of authenticating and monitoring the process," Neumann said. "You'll have a lot of the same things you have with current system, the difference is the votes will be transmitted over the Internet."
Brazil this year will spend about US$200 million on expanding its electronic voting system, including the purchase of 300,000 PCs, Neumann said. All the machines are equipped with a network port, which will make it possible for them to connect to the Internet in the future, he said. Though Internet voting will be limited to absentee ballots this year, the technology Brazil is putting in place can be applied on a much larger scale, Neumann said.
Modulo, whose key business in Brazil is in providing network system integration for online banking, has played a role in Brazil's electronic voting network since 1990. Safevote's software and protocols run on any operating system, including the proprietary Unix operating system currently in use in Brazil's electronic voting network, Neumann said.
"We think it's the soundest security architecture. That's why we made the deal with Safevote," Neumann said.
Another advantage to Safevote's technology, according to Alberto Bastos, chief operating officer of Modulo, is that it allows Modulo to provide an Internet voting system without changing the current user and management interfaces.
Cisco Systems Inc., Microsoft Corp., Entrust Technologies Inc. and Compaq Computer Corp. also provide hardware and software to the voting system. Cisco co-sponsored the symposium, and the company's chief executive officer, John Chambers, participated in the panel discussion along with the governors of New York and California.
Chambers, and Govs. George Pataki of New York and Gray Davis of California, said they believed that Internet voting would become a reality in the United States within a matter of years, but they also cautioned that there is a need to maintain the integrity of the voting process and ensure that people with access to computers don't gain an unfair advantage.
"We will probably start off evolving this process, first putting this capability in the polling stations and automating what's already there," Chambers said.
Modulo can be found on the Web at http://www.modulo.com; Safevote, in San Rafael, California, can be reached at +1-415-455-8281 or found on the Web at http://www.safevote.com.