E-voting and the road to the White House

Elections in the US capture the world’s attention and analysis.  Voter participation in the world’s greatest superpower has an influence watched from many angles, including election logistics, since every American election is a showcase of technologies that exhibits the variety of e-voting models available in the market.

The world will be able to see the automated voting methods Americans employ during the November 8th presidential election, the 58th in the country’s history. The Verified Voting Foundation  has listed the four technologies the country has been using recently, expected to make another appearance in this election.

According to their study, the models go from touch screen machines, to devices that issue paper trails, to scanners limited to automated tallying only.

The multiplicity of these technologies is a result of each county in the US having autonomy to choose and apply the model best suited to its needs. It is expected that over 3 thousand technology solutions will be put to use in November, based on the following models:

1.-Optical scan voting systems. This mechanism is used in some places in the US for automating the vote count. A scanner reads and recognizes the ballot, which is fed to the machine by hand, records the votes cast and processes them automatically.  Most voters mark their choices by filling ovals or marking arrows on the ballot.  The device stores the ballot counts in its memory.

2.- Direct-Recording Electronic voting machines (DRE). This kind of technology is the most used worldwide (countries such as Belgium, Brazil, India and Venezuela employ it), and its application has increased in the US. Votes are marked directly on the machine through a touchscreen or a tactile pad. According to the summary from Verified Voting, the first generation of DRE’s used a button interface for the selection, while latter models employ touchscreens.  There are variations of this model that can print a voting-verified paper trail.  Besides precinct counts, all the machines also transmit their own individual votes bundled together when the polls close.

3) Devices with a marking system. Machines of this kind have an interface that makes voting easier for those with disabilities.  They offer autonomy to voters with physical handicaps (mobility-related problems or absence of limbs) and those with sensory limitations (visual and hearing impairments).  For instance, for visual impairments, the device may have Braille markings, or headphones so the voter can hear the contents of the ballot.  There are also sip/puff devices that let the user navigate the ballot, intended for users with impaired mobility so they can vote unassisted.

4) Punched cards. According to Verified Voting, very few counties still use the ancient method of punched cards, having voters punch holes in the ballots with a mechanical device.  The ballots are then inserted in the ballot box to be either counted manually or with a tallying machine.

After reviewing the usual voting technologies in the US, the 185 million voters in the country will still employ the most common voting models in the world, but it is clear that electronic voting will prevail.


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