Series- Automated voting: on-site and remote voting

The sophistication of technology has allowed governments to have many tools to automate the elections, and even technify stages prior to the election (registration, application). However, the power of progress has made possible the application of Internet voting, as on-site voting.

While on-site voting is exercised by an electoral college and is currently the most applied around the world, online voting is just starting, but is one of the two options that have to be automated in an electoral system.

Regardless of the technological possibilities offered by each, when it comes to their adoption, the nations ponder on which of them mean less risk according the need of preserving an election’s principles: secrecy, to be universal, free, equal and direct.

In the race for winning new markets, online voting hasn`t had many things on its favor. It may be ideal for each voter to have the right to vote from his or her home, but the security requirements haven’t yet passed the test.

This is an Internet based system, which allows any voter with a computer or any other device with an Internet connection, a mobile phone or digital TV. Each voter is assigned with a unique digital ID number that is protected with complex encryption processes, which enables Access to a site where the election is done. After the cast is voted, it travels through a transmission network to a totalization center.

Countries such as England, France and Spain have made pilot trials but have not yet decided on its adoption, mainly because the Internet access is yet limited, violating the universality and equality principles. They also question the anonymity certification, as the id number does not eliminate phishing. They also point out that the freedom in voting is not guaranteed, as al election might be forced. Other postures exist regarding the security and secrecy of the vote, as there’s no software that guarantees 100% remote voting. Despite this, Switzerland has started to implement a system that enables online voting, and hopes to extend progressively the use of this tool.

On another hand, on-site electronic vote is being successfully implemented in over 30 countries. With this system, the voter must go to traditional voting stations where he or she uses electronic voting machines and ballots. There are many mechanisms to fulfill the premise of automation, but the main are Voting Optical Scanners and processes of Direct Recording Electronic (DRE).

United States, Philippines, England, Brazil, Norway, Venezuela and Belgium have adjusted e-vote according to their legal needs and idiosyncrasies. The United States, for example, use mixed systems (touch screen machines but with no paper record of the votes, and paper ballots for voting and optical scanners for counting). Venezuela has a system that is 100% automated, provided by the company Smartmatic, which registers the votes through touch screen machines that issues the proof of vote to enable the audit. The system also has electronic ballots for multiple candidates’ elections.

On-site electronic voting have many critics, however the experts designers of voting systems have been covering the different requirements and needs of the countries facing new challenges. The mission is to continue searching for new and better tools to meet the guarantees of transparency, speed and reliability.

Both, on-site and remote vote are a reality. It’s up for each country to study which devices are more suitable for their laws and culture. Technology changes at a fast speed and is waiting for the citizens to be able to vote in a secure way, but also taking advantage of the advances technology offers.

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