‘Digital signature essential’ to safeguard automated polls
By Leila B. Salaverria
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—It may be one less human intervention in electronically transmitting election results, but a watchdog group insists a digital signature by a poll inspector is an essential safeguard in the automated balloting on May 10.
Alfredo Pascual, convenor of the Automated Elections System (AES) Watch, said that he became concerned after the Commission on Elections (Comelec) released its revised general instructions to the board of election inspectors (BEI) earlier this month.
Resolution No. 8786, directs the teachers comprising the BEI to press “No” when asked by the counting machine, or the Precinct Count Optical Scan machine, if they would like to digitally sign the transmission files with a BEI signature key, Pascual said.
The counting machines electronically transmit the results of the voting to the canvassing centers.
The digital signature is used to verify which machine the results had come from.
“This raises big questions in the minds of groups like us and the public in general,” Pascual told the Inquirer in an interview yesterday.
“We’d like Comelec to be true to what is required in the law, that election results transmitted electronically should be digitally signed because this is a key safeguard feature of the AES,” he said.
He said that if the BEI would not be required to enter the digital signature, then other sources would also be able to send data to the servers where election results are stored.
But Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez said the instructions did not mean that there would be no digital signatures in the transmission of the votes.
Jimenez said the instructions simply removed one step in the transmission process in order to minimize human intervention and further protect the results of the vote.
The digital signature of the machine is already encoded in the device, he said, and that the digital signature of the BEI is also entered into the machine before the voting.
“From the start, the digital signature is already in the machine … Since it is there, the minute the machine stops counting, it starts printing, it starts transmitting. The teacher does not need to enter the process,” Jimenez said.
“That minimizes the possibility of the results being tampered with,” he added.
Jimenez said that the digital signatures would be read by the machines receiving the voting results because they are already in the signal that was transmitted.
The Comelec spokesperson also said that since the transmission of the results would be continuous, there would be no opportunity for anybody to encode new data into the machines.
It was also physically impossible for anyone to enter new data into the machine, he said.