Pilot projects are an essential assessment tool for evaluating the possible use of new technologies. They should be used to test assumptions about possible benefits and challenges in using new technology, as well as the costs of implementation and the reaction of stakeholders to the technology. The conduct and evaluation of a pilot project on the use of electronic voting or counting technology is a complex task. It needs to be resourced and managed effectively if it is to serve its purpose of providing an adequate assessment of the technology. The pilot process should be transparent and include mechanisms for feedback from stakeholders.
Pilot projects require all aspects of election administration to be adapted to the new technology, but implemented on a smaller scale. Therefore, all of the issues listed in sections 2.2 and 2.3 are relevant when conducting a pilot project. These issues are not repeated here; instead, this section focuses on issues specific to pilot projects.
Implementing Agency – The institution that is responsible for implementing the pilot project(s) will need to be clearly defined, as will any support that it can expect from other state institutions. The implementing agency will normally be the election management body, but this does not have to be the case, especially if electronic voting or counting technologies are piloted in nonpolitical elections (e.g., student elections). It is recommended that, even if electoral stakeholders are not formally included in the project management body established by the implementing agency, they are included and consulted as much as possible throughout the pilot project process.
- Resources – The conduct of a pilot will require that financial resources are made available, not only for procurement of the technologies to be piloted, but also for other new aspects of the electoral process, such as testing and certification of the technologies, the conduct of voter education and IT support staff. Human resources will also be required to implement the project, and it is recommended that dedicated resources be allocated to manage and support the pilot project.
- Mandate – The mandate of the pilot project should be clearly identified. This mandate should include the technology or technologies that are to be piloted, the scale and locations of the pilot to be conducted, the kind of pilot to be conducted (i.e., in an actual election, in parallel to an actual election, or for a mock election), the issues to be addressed in the pilot and the evaluative criteria to be utilized in the pilot.
- Timeline – A clear timeline should be identified, for the conduct of the pilot as well as for delivery of the outputs from the process. The timeline for the conduct of the pilot project must be realistic given the likely need to procure and test the new electronic voting or counting systems, in addition to the other activities required to implement such projects.
- Transparency – The need for transparency cuts across all aspects of the implementation of pilot projects. There may be significant distrust about the potential change in the way that elections are implemented. Stakeholder concerns will best be addressed by including political parties, civil society, the media and voters in the process through consultations and briefings as the process develops.
- Technology Specification – The decision-in-principle process should pass on a detailed specification for the procurement of the technology to be used in the pilot project(s). This specification should be based on the requirements of the electoral environment and an assessment of existing products. If this is not provided, then the pilot project management body will need to develop it based on the findings of the decision-in-principle process, and then use this specification for the procurement of the pilot technologies.
- Legal Framework – The legislative amendment process necessary to enable the conduct of pilot projects, if any amendments are required, may be different for a pilot than for a more general implementation of electronic voting or counting technology. Enabling legislation may be passed for a temporary period, during which the pilot(s) will take place; likewise, temporary rules or regulations may be passed to implement the pilots at a procedural level.
- Testing of Assumptions – The decision-in-principle process will make a large number of assumptions about the operational challenges of implementing electronic voting or counting technologies, the expected benefits and costs, and the way in which voters, election administrators, political parties and observers interact with and experience the new system. The pilot project must, to the extent possible, test and challenge these assumptions so that a final decision can be made based on as many facts – and as few assumptions – as possible.
- Evaluation – While the issue of evaluating the use of electronic voting and counting technologies is relevant in general terms for the implementation of these technologies, it should play an especially important role during pilot projects. Extra efforts should be made to evaluate the performance of voting and counting technologies during pilots and also to evaluate the reactions of key stakeholders, including political parties, civil society and voters, to the use of the technology. Conducting audits of the piloted technology’s performance will be an especially important aspect of this evaluation. These evaluation mechanisms will play a critical role in the next stage of the decision-making process: the decision on adoption.
- Outputs – The body responsible for conducting the pilot project should be directed as to the expected outputs of the process. The output could be as simple as a recommendation on whether to adopt the piloted technology. Alternatively, the pilot project might be expected to result in a comprehensive report on the pilot process, lessons learned, a plan for larger-scale implementation, a revised specification for the voting or counting technology, and so on.
Decision on Adoption