Voting success starts with education

There are numerous technical and logistic indicators that can attest to the success or failure of the implementation of electronic voting. These are of utmost importance due to the fact that they constitute the technological and organizational solvency to execute a transparent, safe, and fast electoral process. However, the main axis of every election is actually the voter. Therefore, when it comes to modernizing the system, training the voters will be vital to implement an automated system successfully.

Throughout the path of electronic voting, there have been diverse strategies adopted by various countries in order to familiarize the voters with the technology that will be used to elect their representatives. Once the e-voting mode is chosen—be it 100% automated, or a combination of manual voting and electronic counting—, the electoral organism must design a timeline for training the citizens. Here the challenge is for the entire population, not just the voters, to get to know first-hand the way the new electoral system works.

In Peru, e-voting hasn’t been formally adopted yet, but the training programs have already begun.

E-voting hasn’t been formally adopted in Peru, but training programs have already started.

The processes aimed at preparing trial runs so as to familiarize the public with the electronic mechanism have entailed a great institutional effort where all the stages of the process—how the machines work, how to vote, the tallying and transmission of results stages, as well as any other step that might help voters understand the voting system in its entirety— are presented through all media—radio, TV, printed media, and the web. Nations have developed media campaigns, but in addition forums, workshops, exhibits, and voting drills have been combined in order for the message to reach all citizens everywhere.

One of the steps most recommended by specialists is to execute a small-scale pilot program to test the system. A process of promotion of the technology is then framed around its logistics in order to offer the citizens a first approach to the electronic voting system that will be adopted in the country. An example of this phase was set by Peru, where electoral automation has not been implemented formally, but which is already ahead in the process by combining information and education of the electorate with the deployment of a voting drill in parallel to formal elections.

Venezuela is a country that has amassed more than a decade of electronic elections, having experienced a fast advance towards automation in 2004, and achieved a fully automated election system by 2008. Here, all sorts of tools have been deployed in order to make voters to get acquainted (drills, electoral fairs, media campaigns). Nowadays, not only does the electoral body take the responsibility of officially informing events to the public, but also grassroots organizations have organized more sophisticated mechanisms to promote civilian commitment. Thus, according to an October 2012 poll carried out by Datanalisis (a renowned polling firm in the country), around 95% of Venezuelans believe that voting is easy or very easy. In comparison, only 40% of Venezuelans believe that withdrawing cash from an ATM is easy or very easy.

Another resource with an extended application has been the setup of an online e-voting simulator. This is based on a virtual reproduction of the voting process and is available within a single click. During election times, different countries post links on the Web with interactive elements to invite people to the polling stations and make it easier for citizens to train for actual suffrage.

Different means, mechanisms, and tools coexist nowadays to reach all audiences. However, the responsibility to bring these elements together in order to guarantee an effective election starts with the authorities, political parties, and activists investing all their efforts in the process of electoral education.


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