Belgium comes back, and comes back big. This sentence encloses the process that this European country went through, since being the e-voting pioneer,and having to step back after a lack of disposition to modernize its systems. However, after two years of submitting a request for proposal for a new automation system, a new era of high-tech voting for this nation was announced.
Looking back, Belgium was already experimenting with voting machines even before the 1990s. A complex electoral system―compulsory suffrage, three official languages (Dutch, German, French) and simultaneous elections― forced the authorities to automate the voting process. Thus elapsed almost two decades. However, the governments’ poor foresight to guarantee that the model would be updated led to its temporary suspension.
These hard times made way for an international search of new electoral technologies, and a very demanding request for proposal process began in 2010. It included a request for the development of a special prototype, diverse certifications and a pilot test, which ended last month when the Federal Public Service announced that it would use the voting system designed by Smartmatic during the next 15 years.
Belgium’s return to e-voting implies adapting the technology that Smartmatic has tested in many countries of the world (Philippines, USA, Venezuela) to its own needs, characteristics and laws. This technology is based on an electronic voting machine with touch screen, capable of printing a voter receipt for eventual audits of the results. The implementation will be progressive and will begin in the Flanders and Brussels regions.
From a system that was based on the delivery of a magnetic card that the voter introduced on a machine in order to activate the ballot,and use an optical pencil to make the selection, Belgians will now delve into the most advanced technology to elect their authorities. In Venezuela, for example, Smartmatic provides the SAES-4200, a next-generation touch screen machine featuring extensions for electronic ballots, different security levels, an integrated printer (for vote counting and auditing) and a module specially designed for people with disabilities. Besides, they are capable of counting, tallying, and transmitting the results.
The step taken by Belgium proves that e-voting cannot be stopped, because compared to the erratic functionality of manual voting, the most advanced electoral technology, capable of adjusting to each country’s necessities is the one that offers almost endless possibilities to support the universal qualities of voting, secrecy, reliability, transparency with fast and safe results.