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Created: November 10, 2004.
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Election Markup Language (EML) Recommended to Member States by Council of Europe.

Update 2004-11-30: "EML v4 Ballot Result," posted 2004-11-30 by John Borras, Election and Voter Services TC Chair: "I'm very pleased to announce that following the recent ballot, Version 4 of EML has now been approved as a Committee Draft... we will post the final approved version on the TC website in next few days..."

[November 10, 2004] The Council of Europe Committee of Ministers has issued a Recommendation to its forty-six (46) member states on standards for e-voting. The Recommendation of the Council includes reference to Legal Standards, Operational Standards, and Technical Requirements. It "emphasises the need for new voting methods to meet the principles of universal and equal suffrage, free and secret ballots and for the systems to be secure, transparent and accountable. It covers issues such as electoral lists, information to voters, and vote counting."

Among the Technical Requirements articulated in Appendix III of the Recommendation, "Interoperability" (Clauses 66-68) the document stipulates 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. At present, the Election Markup Language (EML) standard is such an open standard and in order to guarantee interoperability, EML shall be used whenever possible for e-election and e-referendum applications. The decision of when to adopt EML is a matter for member states. The EML standard valid at the time of adoption of this recommendation, and supporting documentation are available on the Council of Europe website. In cases which imply specific election or referendum data requirements, a localisation procedure shall be used to accommodate these needs. This would allow for extending or restricting the information to be provided, whilst still remaining compatible with the generic version of EML. The recommended procedure is to use structured schema languages and pattern languages."

The Election Markup Language referenced in the Recommendation is being developed within the OASIS Election and Voter Services Technical Committee. The OASIS EVS TC was chartered in May 2001 to "develop a standard for the structured interchange of data among hardware, software, and service providers who engage in any aspect of providing election or voter services to public or private organizations." Under this Charter, the "services performed for such elections include but are not limited to voter role/membership maintenance (new voter registration, membership and dues collection, change of address tracking, etc.), citizen/membership credentialing, redistricting, requests for absentee/expatriate ballots, election calendaring, logistics management (polling place management), election notification, ballot delivery and tabulation, election results reporting and demographics."

Version 3 of the Election Markup Language was approved as an OASIS Committee Specification in February 2003. It provides specifications for (1) Candidate Nomination, Response to Nomination and Approved Candidate Lists; (2) Voter Registration information, including eligible voter lists; (3) Various communications between voters and election officials, such polling information and election notices; (4) Logical Ballot information, including races, contests, and candidates; (5) Voter Authentication; (6) Vote Casting and Vote Confirmation; (7) Election counts and results; (8) Audit information pertinent to some of the other defined data and interfaces.

Election Markup Language in Working Draft Version 4 has been aligned with the work of the Council of Europe (CoE) Working Group on e-voting. According to a communiqué from John Borras (e-Government Unit, UK Cabinet Office), the EML version 4 draft "accommodates all the perceived requirements" from the forty-some CoE countries, "including referenda, as well as lots of lessons learnt from the UK pilots," so this version meets a very comprehensive set of requirements.

The set of data and message definitions described as XML schemas in EML version 4 also supports Referendum Options Nomination, Response to Nomination, and Approved Options Lists. It is flexible enough to be used for elections and referendums that are primarily paper-based or that are fully e-enabled.

The Recommendation of The Committee of Ministers adopted under the terms of Article 15.b of the Statute of the Council of Europe was "based on experience gathered by the Council of Europe through pilot projects in several member states and know-how collected from legal and technical experts from nearly all 45 member states. It sets out a blueprint for governments planning to use new technologies for future elections and referendums, and represents first international legal text on e-voting in elections and referendums."

EML Bibliographic Information

  • "EML Process and Data Requirements." EML Version 4.0d [Technical Committee Working Draft]. Editor: eGovernment Unit, Cabinet Office, UK. Contributors: John Ross, Paul Spencer, John Borras, and Farah Ahmed. From the ZIP archive. Posted by John Borras on 06-September-2004 as 'EML v4.0d'. 03-September-2004. Document identifier: 'EML v4.0d Process and Data Requirements'. 48 pages. "This document describes the background and purpose of the Election Markup Language, the electoral processes from which it derives its structure and the security and audit mechanisms it is designed to support. The relating document entitled EML v4.0d Schema Descriptions' lists the schemas and schema descriptions to be used in conjunction with this specification." See the file listing for contents of the ZIP distribution file; it contains thirty-eight (38) XML Schema files, the Data Dictionary, and the principal prose documents in PDF format.

    "EML Schema Descriptions." Editor: eGovernment Unit, Cabinet Office, UK. Contributors: John Ross, Paul Spencer, John Borras, and Farah Ahmed. Version 4.0d [Technical Committee Working Draft]. 03-September-2004. Document identifier: 'EML v4.0d Schema Descriptions'. 97 pages. "This document contains the descriptions of the schemas used in EML v4.0d. This document provides an explanation of the core schemas used throughout, definitions of the simple and complex datatypes, plus the EML schemas themselves. It also covers the conventions used in the specification and the use of namespaces, as well as the guidance on the constraints, extendibility, and splitting of messages."

    Data dictionary for EML v4.0d. Microsoft Excel spreadsheet. 223 Data Element Names are documented. This Data Dictionary in spreadsheet format provides for each Date Element Name a definition, a formal type, and an indication of the XML Schema(s) in which the element is present.

  • "Election Markup Language." Version 3.0. 24-February-2003. Editor: Office of the e-Envoy, UK. Contributors: John Ross, Paul Spencer, and Charbel Aoun. Document identifier: 'EML v3.0'. 81 pages. Version 3 was balloted and approved as an OASIS Committee Specification. "This document contains a high-level overview of the processes within an e-voting system and the data requirements of the flows between those processes. It also addresses security issues relating to the exchange of data, and also provides a glossary of terms to ensure a full understanding by readers of the document. The approved schemes and schema descriptions are also provided." See the file listing for contents of the ZIP distribution. PDF generated from the .DOC extracted from the ZIP archive. [source .ZIP]

About the Council of Europe

"The Council of Europe is the continent's oldest political organisation, founded in 1949. It groups together 46 countries, including 21 countries from Central and Eastern Europe, and has granted observer status to 5 more countries (the Holy See, the United States, Canada, Japan and Mexico). It is is distinct from the 25-nation European Union, but no country has ever joined the Union without first belonging to the Council of Europe. It has its headquarters in Strasbourg, in north-eastern France...

The main component parts of the Council of Europe are:

  • the Committee of Ministers, composed of the 46 Foreign ministers or their Strasbourg-based deputies (ambassadors/permanent representatives), which is the Organisation's decision-making body
  • the Parliamentary Assembly, grouping 630 members (315 representatives and 315 substitutes) from the 46 national parliaments; the current President is the Austrian Socialist Peter Schieder
  • the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities, composed of a Chamber of Local Authorities and a Chamber of Regions; its current [2004-11] President is Giovanni Di Stasi (SOC, Italy)
  • the 1800-strong secretariat headed since September 2004 by Secretary General Terry Davis (SOC, United Kingdom), former Vice-President of the Parliamentary Assembly and former President of the Socialist Group of the Assembly.

The Council was set up to defend human rights, parliamentary democracy and the rule of law, to develop continent-wide agreements to standardise member countries' social and legal practices, and to promote awareness of a European identity based on shared values and cutting across different cultures.

Since 1989, the Council's main job has become acting as a political anchor and human rights watchdog for Europe's post-communist democracies and assisting the countries of central and eastern Europe in carrying out and consolidating political, legal and constitutional reform in parallel with economic reform. It provides know-how in areas such as human rights, local democracy, education, culture and the environment..." [adapted from online About]

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