The reasons for e-voting

The year 2010 has been a record year for electronic voting. New countries have assumed the challenge and the commitment of transforming their electoral procedures incorporating technology. Many others have advanced in developing their own systems to strengthen security features, transparency and speed.

The Philippines was one of the nations which premiered in the use of automated voting, and the results were amazing. To leave behind the delayed publication of results (weeks became days) and reduce the incidence of violent acts by uncertainty, the nation relied on Smartmatic, a company that helped display a complex logistical and infrastructure program to automate the exercise of suffrage throughout the 7,107 islands that comprise the archipelago.

Brazil and Venezuela ratified their supremacy in South America, and made two separate electoral processes involving millions of voters, modern voting machines and transmission systems that allow them to show neat results today, safe and 100% automated. India has once again put into operation an electronic system to cover more than 700 million voters in the country.

The recent midterm elections in the U.S. attested to the progress of automation, since many states modernized their old systems and are following the trend of improving the machines and counting and transmission software.

Electronic voting is gaining followers around the world, mainly because of the exhibit of the results gained by the aforementioned nations and other countries, which want to give their citizens the key benefits of voting technology: security, cleanliness and speed of processing results.

In South America, Colombia, Argentina, Peru and Bolivia are just a sample of countries that advance the implementation of electronic voting. Some reasons could be seen and explained according to what’s happening in Colombia. In  this country, voting is manual and the results are released in a short time, but with two major “deficiencies”: unofficial publication of partial results, and a success of the quick count that depends on the election to be met. If presidential elections are being held, the numbers are known almost simultaneously to scrutiny, but for the legislative elections, the picture changes, as they can take days to clear the seats.

In Colombia, there is also an important and influential aspect in the delivery of results. Here, the polls close at 4 pm, regardless there are voters in line to vote, a measure that has undoubtedly created apathy. However, it has an advantage from the technical point of view, which is that it can be easily predicted the time at which results will be displayed. As a contrary case, in Venezuela there is a standard deviation of closing time, so it is not easy to anticipate the closing time of all polls, because the tables operate until the last voter in line exercises its right to vote.

Another important aspect to consider in the analysis of electronic voting has to do with the political environment of each nation. For example in Chile, as in Colombia, the results are not official, but come from the quick counts. But in Venezuela, a country with high political conflict, the results are only issued when they have irreversible trends with final official numbers (95% of aggregation). Electronic voting facilitates this process is met only hours after the total tables are closed and data recollected id official to be formalized for the immediate award of fees.


Electronic voting: An expanding market

If you consider the 180 countries that are attached to the United Nations (UN), at least thirty of them have a legislation that provides for the automation of the electoral process (acquisition of voting, counting, aggregation and transmission of results.) Although the figure is perceived small, reality is that the market is booming, as dozens of nations are working to get the technology and strengthen the main feature of democracy: voting.

The advance of voting technology in the last two decades has been marked mainly by the performance of electronic voting in countries that use it. However, experts point out that the progress of automation at present is no longer dependent of the technological possibilities, but by the cultural and the political will of each nation. There are some cases like Ireland, which despite having invested in the acquisition of a system and have the law, the country has not decided to use yet.

Having overcome the obstacles involved in developing a technology that adapts to the complexities of the electoral process, and even the legal technicalities of each country, the new electronic voting challenge is to overcome political and cultural interests to spread around the globe.

That path has been tested by various countries. For example, in Venezuela the ES & S machines deployed by Indra during the period of 1997 to 2004, were used to sought only automated counting, even when the law precluded that the vote was 100% automated. It was only until 2004, after intense debates and disputes, that electronic voting managed to win with Smartmatic’s machines.

There are other special cases, such as the Philippines, a country that has all the legislation to introduce electronic voting. However, for purely cultural implications, it was decided this year to insist on manual voting, but counting and aggregation were automated. With this mechanism, the country was able to publish results in less than 24 hours, when traditionally they spent days and even weeks to know the winners.

Besides Venezuela, there are two other countries that stand out, Brazil and India, primarily because their experiences have been pioneers in the world, but also because they have a third of the world’s population. These countries have been using electronic voting for many years now, and have successful experiences with this technology, having drawn geographical cultural and population complexities.

We can also mention the United States, where each state is responsible for administrating their own elections. There is room for more than three thousand opportunities of implementation of electronic voting and almost all the variations have used: from the manual and automated counting votes, to fully modernized elections. Even voting via Internet has been currently tested.

The landscape of automation is vast and complex. Each country has a history, and it proves the versatility of electronic voting, but what is relevant to this account, is that various nations are setting the standard that gives new impetus to the market of electronic voting: Peru, Colombia, Argentina, Paraguay, Spain , Bolivia, Pakistan, Indonesia, Belgium and other nations, are refining their laws and assessing which system meets their standards and qualities to join the group of nations, which not only preserves the right to vote, but seeks to perfect it.