By an unforeseeable coincidences, CMU-Q hosted a long-planned workshop on electronic voting mere days after the Qatari leadership announced that Qatar's first parliamentary elections in history will be held in 2013. The meeting gathered government officials, CMU-Q faculty, researchers, administrators and students around Carsten Schümann, an authority in electronic voting. Although a computer scientist by training, Schürmann was largely neutral about technology. Instead, his main message was about trust: an electoral system is as good as the trust the people have in it. And trust is heavily influenced by local factors. In his view, "introducing computers in the electoral process of a country needs to be done very carefully, in such a way that it maintains or increases the trust that the people have in the existing system, and with critical attention to the social, political and cultural environment of the country."
Schürmann reviewed the worldwide state of electronic voting, from Germany where it is banned, to Estonia where it is the norm, via the United States and India where it was shown to be vulnerable to tampering. He also gave a moment-by-moment tour of the electoral process in Denmark, where elections are highly trusted yet still non-electronic. "Learning from what other countries have done is very valuable in building a system in your own country", he noted, a clear reference to the majority of countries, including Denmark and Qatar, that are debating whether to embrace electronic voting. And, given that there is no solution that fits all, scientists can act as impartial advisers in making these critical decisions.
German-born and CMU-educated, Schürmann is an associate professor of computer science at the IT University of Copenhagen in Denmark. He is the leader of the DemTech project, a large initiative that brings together government officials, industrial partners and researchers from complementary academic disciplines to modernize the electoral process while balancing the trust of the people and the promises of the technology — the kickoff meeting of the project was held in the Danish parliament. Schürmann is also a renowned expert in logic and verification.