When speaking about the merits of electronic voting, fairness, usability, security, cost reduction and reliability are fundamental qualities that shift a country’s electoral system. On top of all these advantages, there is one characteristic that capitalizes a great deal of e-voting’s “attractiveness”: speed.
The reason why speed is one of the most notable benefits of the automation of elections is that manual voting—and its difficulty to give timely results—has generated one of the darkest problems of the democratic era: the connection between scrutiny and the announcement of results with fraud and manipulation of the elections. In many opportunities and countries, suspicion has not been cast out of popular imagination, but out of massive scandals that are the product of irregularities, which range from identity theft to double voting and miscounted tallying.
Thus, the e-voting’s promise to present fast results has become a key aspect of electoral automation. However, the speed of this kind of voting is not limited to being able to announce the winner of an election in 30 minutes, one or two hours after closing the process, but celerity has actually been taken to its highest extent having an impact on different phases of the Election Day.
In order to initiate an Election Day, the polling station must be set up, and then electronic voting shows its practical quality. Technology reduces the time it takes to set up the electoral circuits since less physical elements are needed (ballot papers, markers, protective folders for the ballots), and also because there are less tasks for the members of the station and operators, like unpacking material, counting it and handing it over to voters.
With voting machines, the identity of voters can be certified even faster through biometric identification —fingerprint scanners—, saving the process precious minutes. This is enhanced by a fast and neat voting exercise, since automation is possible with the use of machines with touch screens, which reduce suffrage to tap on the preferred option on the machine or electronic ballot. The minutes taken to examine a traditional ballot turn into a minimal time in the selection of candidates or posts in dispute, and there are even some machines that allow voters with disabilities or those who cannot read to vote without assistance, preserving the right to secret ballot.
The high point of an electoral journey is the closure of all polling stations and compliance with all the phases of scrutiny, tallying, and announcement of results. With e-voting, it doesn’t matter how many hundreds or millions of voters there are, nor what are the topographic characteristics of the country, as regardless of where it is located, the machine counts the cast votes within seconds and transmits them to a tally center in minutes. This allows for the proclamation of results within a short time span—from half an hour to two hours—, and depending of each country’s laws or electoral tradition, it also makes it possible to present them to the people who have gone to the polling stations. Furthermore, if the law allows it, official results can be immediately released online.
With e-voting, timing of the electoral process gains relevance, not because of how long the Election Day can be, but because system automation makes suffrage easier and faster in a way that cannot be replicated by manual voting.