Emerging Technologies

The use of Cryptography in Elections: Choices for a Sustainable Future


Based on mathematical theories, a set of calculations based on a system of rules called algorithms and computer science practices, cryptography is a way to secure communications. It is a process to deal with sensitive data with utmost security by communicating in a form that only those for whom it’s meant, get to know the same.[1] The nomenclature of the word is a testament to it as “Crypt” signifies something concealed and “graphy” stands for writing. It not only puts an end to the appropriation and remolding of data but also upholds its legitimacy.  Since cryptography is known to maintain the integrity of the data which makes alterations in data highly impossible, the technique is widely used in various kinds of transactions, be it banking or e-commerce, and also to secure computer passwords.[2] One of the most important usages of this technique is while conducting electronic voting. Elections, traditionally, deal with sensitive data that has to be protected to ensure the projection of fair results. The primary focus of an electoral process is to verify the voter, and secure their votes in a manner where they neither be altered nor be known to the general public. The success in ensuring the same leads to the legitimacy and trust in the newly formed government. [3]Thus, is a process by which data can be converted from ordinary text to an encrypted form of unintelligible text and vice versa. It essentially protects information in the form of codes that the general public cannot decode except for those who are in fact the intended users.

The nomenclature of the word is a testament to it as “Crypt” signifies something concealed and “graphy” stands for writing. It not only puts an end to the appropriation and remoulding of data but also upholds its legitimacy. 

Cryptography has been a trustworthy way to transfer private and sensitive information as witnessed by the success of online banking transactions and e-commerce transactions. Most people around the world have shifted from traditional banking or shopping systems to online transactions. As of now, cryptography has been a successful system to maintain the trust of its users and thus, can be used in other data-sensitive areas looking for a sustainable future.[4]


There are different ways in which cryptography functions. The different techniques of this process are used in different walks of life, according to the requirements of the situation. The first technique is the Symmetric-Key Cryptography that functions in a manner in which the sender, as well as the receiver, have a single key that is shared by them. The usage of the key is different for the sender and the receiver in the sense that the sender utilizes the key to mainly encrypt the message and send the cryptograph of the code, which was earlier a plain text, to the receiver. On the other hand, the recipient uses the same key to decipher and decrypt the message which is now converted into plaintext. This process ensures that only the sender and receiver, who are concerned with such sensitive data and high-security information, have access to it. This voting system can be used in electronic voting systems as its primary purpose is to secure data from both ends while transmitting. [5]

The second technique is the Public-Key Cryptography which is one of the most unprecedented concepts to be introduced in the past few decades.[6] Unlike the Symmetric-Key cryptography, in the Public-Key, two keys are used. One key is meant to be private and another is meant to the public. This revolutionary technology works in the manner in which the public key, as the name suggests, is distributed openly among the public but the related private key remains discrete.[7] The working of this system is such that the public key is used to encrypt, which means that all persons are eligible to encrypt, however, the private key is used to decipher and decrypt which signifies that only the assigned receiver can decrypt. It is an important function in the cases where the intended receiver is not known to the sender. It is a secure way to communicate with those that a sender has never met or exchanged the key with. This system is not only useful in digital signatures but is also dominantly used in electronic voting systems. [8]

The third technique used to transmit data while protecting it is Hash Function. In this technique, no jets are used, rather a standard and pre-decided length of the hash value is calculated according to the plain text so that the subject matter of the plain text is difficult to recover. Due to its functioning, this process is the most suitable for the operating systems to encrypt the ones which are password protected. Hashing ensures that the input and the output are identical, irrespective of the matter that is fed in. Furthermore, it is not probable to ascertain input by seeing the resultant output of the same.[9] This ensures anonymity on the part of the sender’s input as well as gives accurate results according to the same. Thus, it is extremely useful in case of electronic voting as the anonymity of the voter can be maintained at all times. [10]

These methods of transmitting data and other information using the techniques of cryptography are extremely useful in electronic voting since these different ways ensure the complete anonymity of the voter and allow no tampering with sensitive information. However, it is still not a bulletproof method to secure voting from meddling.


Using technology in elections and vote recording is not a new phenomenon. It has been in practice since the late 19th century, especially in the United State of America. Electronic voting has always been a controversial territory because of the vulnerabilities of a machine system. Even though cryptography was used in the past to secure the process of electronic voting as much as possible, but, these machines did not stand the test of the independent researchers. In such a scenario, even the governments and the manufacturers of such a system cannot instill trust in their people.[11]

A very strong reason for the same is the past tampering with the electoral booths and various desperate attempts by the politicians to gain power. The people vote to choose the future of their country and their life ahead, any kind of unfair means could hamper such a foolproof process of using cryptography.  Using Cryptography in elections requires a strong and supportive organization that provides for a better environment supporting free and fair elections. However, there is always a scope of some flaws in the design of the whole system which could have potential consequences of manipulation of election results due to lack of voter’s privacy or the loss of trust and confidence in such systems. Both of these scenarios turn out to be harmful to the system as a whole.

In an electronic voting system, a voter comes across an electronic poll book which is a digital voter registration information system. This poll book helps the election officials to authenticate and legitimize the process of voting by every individual. Even though most information in the poll book is secure but if it records the order in which people vote, such a book could easily align the voting record of a person to their information in the electronic poll book to identify which individual voted for whom.[12] This could lead to absolute intimidation of the person’s voting and affect the overall results of the elections by influencing the choices of the people. Thus, we understand that the sensitive data in electronic poll books needs to be encrypted by the process of cryptography to ensure the privacy of the voters as well as keep the attackers at bay from altering private information. In this case, hash functions can be used but it will be successful only with the support of the government and various organizations. [13]

1 2Next page

Related Articles

Leave a Reply