Electoral bodies around the world have increasingly begun to use electronic voting (e-voting) technologies. The Carter Center and the international election observation community recognize these emergent technologies as one of the largest challenges facing their work. By its very nature, e-voting technology limits transparency as many aspects of vote tabulation occur invisibly. Observation organizations have had little experience observing elections with e-voting technology until recently.
To address these challenges, in 2006 The Carter Center began a multi-year collaborative initiative focused on facilitating a greater understanding of automated and e-voting technology. The intended output of this initiative is a methodology to assist observers in understanding and assessing elections where electronic voting technology is used. When finalized, this methodology will provide the Center with a framework for conducting more meaningful assessments of electoral processes with e-voting systems. This work, in conjunction with the larger goals of the Democratic Election Standards Project, aims to provide the observation community with a more systematic and comprehensive methodology for observing electoral processes with e-voting technology and systems.
The Carter Center hosted an initial workshop on the challenges posed by electronic technologies in March 2005. As a result of the meeting, a draft framework for observing e-voting technology was developed. An updated version of the methodology was presented for review, discussion, and amendment, at a November 2006 meeting of e-voting experts and observation organizations at The Carter Center.
In addition, in December 2006, the Center deployed a small, targeted mission to Venezuela to observe the use of electronic voting in the country's 2006 presidential election and to conduct a preliminary test of the draft methodology. The Carter Center produced two reports to summarize lessons learned: Observing the 2006 Presidential Elections in Venezuela: Final Report of the Technical Mission (PDF) and Developing a Methodology for Observing Electronic Voting (PDF). Following publication in 2007 of the Methodology for Observing Electronic Voting, the Center tested the methodology in the context of subsequent elections. In 2012, the Center published a second edition of the handbook which reflects lessons learned during those additional experiences: Observing Electronic Voting: Second Edition 2012 (PDF).
Following an assessment of lessons-learned in Venezuela, The Carter Center collaborated with the Center's China Program to host representatives of China's Ministry of Civil Affairs and scholars from Chinese universities as they observed the United States 2008 elections. As an international observation organization, the Center did not conduct a full assessment of the U.S. electoral process or release public reports of their findings. However, the United States did provide the Center with an opportunity to further refine their methodology through observation of several different electoral technologies simultaneously.
A third and final study mission was conducted during the Philippines May 10, 2010, elections. The Philippines was chosen as the final study mission as it allowed the Center's electoral and technology experts to ensure their draft methodology was applicable to a variety of regional settings as well as different technologies. A final report from the Philippines mission was published in April 2011.