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Vote of confidence: ENU to work with Democracy Counts to improve trust in elections

Posted: 4th September 2023

The Knowledge Transfer Programme will look at new ways to identify voters

Edinburgh Napier University and Democracy Counts, a company which runs elections around the world, are teaming up in a joint effort to give people more trust in their voting systems in the digital age.

The University’s Blockpass ID Lab will work with the firm over two years as part of a new Knowledge Transfer Programme, funded by Innovate UK.

While many electoral operators still rely on paper and pen to recognise voters, the partnership will look at developing new ways of identifying citizens, while keeping their personal information safe.

It is hoped that this will make elections more secure, transparent and reliable in future.

Professor Bill Buchanan OBE, who leads the Blockpass ID Lab at Edinburgh Napier University, said: “This collaboration will bring forward new methods, using our expertise in advanced cryptography, to properly identify voters at each of the key stages of an election.

“We will aim to replace our paper-based signatures with a more reliable and trustworthy digital approach. Through advancements like this, and digital wallets, we hope to provide more convenient and accessible ways for citizens to take part in the democratic process.”

Simon Verdon, CEO of Democracy Counts, said: “We run elections around the world, and each one differs in their scope and implementation.

“This collaboration will allow us to build the next generation of trusted voter registration and election systems which can integrate different levels of digital trust, and should make voting more transparent, more resilient, and more trustworthy.

“The opportunity is thus for the UK to continue to be an international leader in the setup of elections.”

Paul Keating, Technical Director of Democracy Counts, said: “Digital trust plays an ever-increasing role in our lives, especially as we move towards digital signing.

“As elections have to have high levels of trust and transparency, this work will bring forward the current state-of-the-art in digital trust.

“But there are challenges around using citizen data, and so the collaboration will bring forward the latest research in the preservation of privacy and make sure it has high levels of trust from citizens.”

Established in 2009, Democracy Counts is a market-leading provider of electoral management software, support services and training to the UK Government and local authorities across Scotland, England and Wales – as well as managed referendums and ballot services to public, private and community organisations.

Edinburgh Napier University’s Blockpass ID Lab has spent the last five years researching ways in which blockchain technology can protect personal data from online scammers and hackers.

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