On trust as an electoral value


Photo: Impacto

One of the most recurrent topics in debates about e-voting is trust. This value is the foundation of all human relations, and this explains why it is basic when determining whether to use technology for electoral purposes or not. However, it also makes clear why it is used as an attack element against suffrage automation.
Based on this criterion, trust on every electoral system is sustained on it being capable of faithfully recording the vote, preserving its secrecy—both of the selection and the elector—, presenting an scrutiny that respects the electorate’s selections, guaranteeing that the results cannot be altered, allowing for the auditability of the processes, and also guaranteeing that the voting method is easily performed for all people. The compliance with these requirements is what makes an electoral process efficient and reliable.

We have a long history of failures from manual elections. This is due to the fact that results depend on the transparency of management from multiple actors—polling station members, witnesses, political parties and officers from the electoral body—, as well as the correct filling of forms and reports, the telephonic transmission of information, and the secure transportation of material to the totalization center.

On the other hand, electronic voting offers tools that minimize human intervention on the most important tasks, therefore eliminating error and fraud. This is possible because the process is carried out on devices designed and manufactured to process, count and transmit reliable electoral results. There are many options in the market to automate voting nowadays, and they not only guarantee the compliance of each of the requirements of an election, but can also be adapted to each country’s legal necessities. For example, if a nation demands devices equipped with ballots for the selection of multiple posts, numeric keyboards, and tools for disabled citizens, automated tally, printed vote receipts, or any other necessity, all of them can be covered.

The difference between manual voting and electronic voting, in terms of trust, is that while the first one needs thousands of people willing to preserve the results and watch over the fulfillment of the phases of suffrage, tally and transmission, with automated systems the audits, held (before and after the election) between the electoral body and political actors, provide a guarantee of transparency. Since they don’t share the same interests, they make sure they provide security to the process, validating security elements to have accurate and reliable results.

Comparing trust between both voting models, it is easy to understand why in Latin America, a region affected by the old vices of manual voting, e-voting has been progressively implemented in order to stop fraud. An example close to home is the fact that between October and November Brazil and Venezuela held 100% automated elections with results that were not questioned by any of the contenders, and where the massive voter output (80%) made it evident that in spite of the matrices that seek to discourage the use of electoral technology, the citizenry understands it and supports it. On the contrary, in Honduras and Nicaragua last month, the use of paper ballots and manual counting led to the occurrence of electoral crimes that keep the results unclear even now, and which led international monitors to recommend the modernization of the system in order not to affect Democracy.

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