XML and democracy at work: The Election Markup Language (EML)

With the recent scandal and protests over the election in Ukraine still going full bore more than a week after observers reported substantial evidence of voting irregularities, the decision on November 11, 2004, from the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers (to which 46 states belong) to recommend standards for electronic voting seem particularly poignant. It's not often that XML can come to the aid of modern democracy, but this just might be one of those rare occasions.

The Council has issued a Recommendation (which, like W3C Recommendations, is for all intents and purposes a formal, officially approved standard) that includes language that defines standards for legal and operational standards and technical requirements, all related to e-voting. With considerable (and justifiable) emphasis on security, transparency, and accountability, the Council also determined that "...Open Standards shall be used to ensure that the various technical components or services of an e-voting system, possibly derived from a variety of sources, interoperate" and goes on to specify that the Election Markup Language is such a valid standard in the eyes of its Recommendation.

EML itself is being developed under the aegis of OASIS, in its Election and Voter Services Technical Committee. This markup language is currently in Working Draft status, on Version 4 of its definition. The current draft incorporates all "perceived requirements" of the forty-plus member states in the Council,

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includes coverage of referenda, and benefits from numerous pilots already conducted in the United Kingdom.

For more information on EML and surrounding e-voting standards, the Cover Pages at OASIS are an outstanding place to investigate further, and learn more (also included are some pointers to the Council document and its Web site):

Ed Tittel is a full-time writer and trainer whose interests include XML and development topics, along with IT Certification and information security topics. E-mail Ed at etittel@techtarget.com with comments, questions, or suggested topics or tools for review.

This was first published in November 2004

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