Italy went to the polls on February 24th and 25th and the buzzwords floating around after the results were announced are ‘lack of governance’, ‘fragmentation’, ‘rushed elections’. Right now, the impact of the voting is measured only in its consequences to the economy and the political future of the nation. However, the event could also be interpreted as raising the question of voting modernization.
This country, Europe’s third biggest economy, has manual elections. This means that voters use the same old paper ballots, which are marked and read manually. Given that the country schedules 2 days for the election, results from the first day are not official because they’re merely the results of exit polls; the official count starts on day two, and this time in particular it took 24 hour to have the final results.
Delaying the announcement the electorate’s will is one of the main problems associated with manual voting. In Italy’s case this is made even more delicate, as no official results can be broadcast on day one since there´s another day of voting ahead; uncertainty can then reach worrying levels. Delays are one of the most potent triggers of voter mistrust on the system.
When analyzing voting in Italy, one must ask why a first world country that carries such weight in Europe hasn’t proceeded to modernize its voting system. The visible political quarrels that plague the nation are a logical consequence of this; it is the electorate’s responsibility to raise their concerns, though, since the legal grounds for voting automation have been there since 2006. Despite this, and after 7 years, no serious attempts to enact the decree have been made.
Technology offers diverse options to countries like Italy and to all those that resist the benefits of having secure, quick and transparent elections. The options are there: from 100% automated elections to mixed models where voting remains manual but counting is automated. Safeguarding the trust of the electorate is vital, and e-voting achieves this goal.