Digital Transfer Election Results

The Association of Netherlands Municipalities (Vereniging van Nederlandse Gemeenten, VNG) and the Dutch Electoral Council (Kiesraad) were looking for a software solution to securely send election results. WonderBit to the rescue!

Securely transferring digital election results

In 2020, VNG Realisatie and the Dutch Electoral Council were looking for a software solution to transfer election result files digitally in a securely way.

After winning VNG’s tender, WonderBit created a lightning-fast backend platform that receives and securely stores the uploaded result files and meta data. The platform also ensures that users can only download files they are authorized to access. The download feature conveniently supports bundling of multiple files into a single ZIP file.

The user-friendly frontend enables users to easily upload election results files. The built-in validations make sure that the uploaded files are always correct. The search feature makes looking up municipalities easier and the hierarchical presentation and use of colored icons gives an immediate overview of the current status of which municipalities have transferred their elections results and which haven’t yet.

Background

After polling stations close on Dutch election days, all casted votes at these polling stations are counted and the official results are brought to the city hall. Here, the results are inputted into the nation-wide used Election Supporting Software (OSV2020), which generates a signed election results file of that municipality.

Traditionally, these result files are transferred by email or manually on a USB drive to the main polling station (hoofdstembureau) of its electoral district (kieskring). The main polling station collects all result files from all their municipalities and generates a new results file which is then sent to the Electoral Council (Kiesraad), which in its turn will collect all result files from all electoral districts to generate the official, nation-wide results.

Technology

WonderBit designed and created both the backend and the frontend applications. The backend is created in Python/Django in conjunction with a PostgreSQL database. To ensure availability on the days that follow election day, the server platform and network infrastructure was setup redundantly in two different data centers across the country.

The frontend, built in React, offers a convenient and smooth user experience.

Security

Obviously security in this project was of upmost importance. As in all our projects, WonderBit applied the principe of “security by design” by building the application and infrastructure from the ground up with security and privacy concerns in mind on all levels.

The governmental “Diginetwerk” private network shields the platform from the open internet.

With only a couple of minor issues discovered, WonderBit passed the external penetration test with flying colors.

Results

At the March 2021 general elections, more than 320 municipalities used the platform to securely upload their election files to the platform. In addition, all 19 electoral districts used the platform to download files and upload their generated file to the Electoral Council.

Both VNG and the Electoral Council consider the software platform a great success and plan to use it again in future elections.

Data validation

Special attention has been given to checking the result files when uploading. For example, both on the client and on the server side, the files are checked to see if the zip header is correct, if the signature file is valid, whether the file names in the zip file conform to the specifications, and if the XML version attributes are correct. This allows us to guarantee the correctness and integrity of the uploaded files.

“VNG Realisatie has worked together with WonderBit, where the fast and pleasant communication in particular made this collaboration a success.”
— Steven de Graaf, product specialist at VNG Realisatie
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