Paper vote receipts: Making the vote verifiable


Some DRE machine models have the capacity to print a vote receipt on paper automatically.

In their search for an e-voting model that guarantees accuracy, ease in ballot casting, and verifiability, countries are increasingly opting for e-voting solutions that include printing a vote receipt. This type of receipt is called a Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT).

The main attraction of VVPAT systems is the fact that they enable voters to check in real time that the vote registered, which is the one printed by the machine, matches the choices they just inputted. In addition to enabling this verification, physically printing each vote generates a paper trail that opens the possibility to manually count and compare paper votes totals with the automated counts reflected on the minutes.

Due to the electoral guarantee involving the use of VVPAT, some countries now demand it with e-voting solutions, such as Brazil and India. Although the first of the two is an automation pioneer, its machines do not have printers that replicate digital votes on paper. For this reason, several initiatives have arisen to renew the country’s equipment so as to give way to paper trails for votes.

On the other hand, although India has become a benchmark in the successful implementation of voting machines, it has not yet fulfilled its promise to modernize its system by implementing paper trail printing in order to shield the people’s intent. However, the Supreme Court has already issued a ruling demanding its use.

Venezuela is a pioneer in the use of VVPAT in the region. The mark this practice leaves was reflected on a study conducted by Peru’s National Office for Electoral Processes (Onpe), which shows how the DRE model is progressing firmly compared to other e-voting models. It also shows how paper trails are gaining ground both in countries where electoral automation is used and countries where its implementation is still under study, such as Colombia, Peru and Ecuador.

The way e-voting has found a way to defeat suspicion and fear has been shielding all the phases of the process. VVPAT is a guarantee for expansion.

Namibia gave priority to a business with India rather to its voters

Namibia is in the news these days, not only because it will be opening its polling stations on November 28th to renew its Presidency and Legislative Power, but because half of its 2.3 million voters will be Africa’s pioneers in e-voting.

Although this election could have marked the beginning of the renovation of the electoral system for a country that carries a long history of electoral malpractice and fraud allegations since its independence in 1990, the truth is that Namibia’s Electoral Commission has decided to do business with India, ignoring the needs of its voters.

Last August, the electoral authorities made official the adoption of the e-voting system used in India. To this end, they decided to buy voting machines this nation manufactures. In principle, the step taken by Namibia did not represent any concern, but as the process advanced it was revealed that the devices to be used are rather outdated, equipped with obsolete technology that could jeopardize the electoral event and its results.

Besides technical issues, according to leaked information the Electoral Commission also closed a $20-million deal for the acquisition of the machines—that is, several thousand dollars each. This placed the purchase under suspicion, as India has declared to the world that its e-voting devices are very accessible due to their low cost (no more than $400), but it sold them to Namibia as if they were next-generation.

India’s automated model is based on the use of a machine or electronic board showing a list of candidates lined up next to a sort of switches at the sides. Voters select their preferred candidates with the buttons and register their vote. The devices are manufactured by two Indian companies, Electronic Corporation of India Limited (ECIL) and Bharat Electronics Limited. The need to update the Indian machines became evident during the April-March elections this year. However, the authorities have not fulfilled their promise of modernizing their system to strengthen some stages of the process, improving the emission of results (audits) and incorporating a vote receipt printed on paper to protect the people’s intent.

Namibia will soon begin to use e-voting, but once again, political interests have been placed above the benefit of the citizens. Nevertheless, the presence of international observers could mean that the country might have the possibility of rectifying for subsequent elections, as the recommendations that will be given at the end of the election could sound the alarms about the suspicious purchase.

Facing the future, action from the international community, political activists, parties, and the citizens, will be vital not only for the country to fix its mistakes, but to avoid that other African nations follow its steps. Namibia opted for the easy road, even though in the world there are e-voting models that are modern and safe.

India experienced the busiest elections in the world


India has the largest electoral roll in the world: 814 million voters.

With an electoral roll of 814 million, India stands out for being the country with the largest amount of voters in the world. This staggering number is only one of the many other equally impressive political and electoral milestones the largest democracy in the world has: the elections are not carried out during a single day as in most countries, but they take weeks. Also, the elections are based on an electronic voting system.

India recently captured the attention of the world, as it followed a complex schedule between April 7 and May 12 to carry out its general elections, where 543 posts for the Lower House, which will ultimately determine the new prime minister. Results were scheduled to be announced on May 16.

According to the data released by electoral authorities, elections are organized into nine progressive phases, so that voters can turn to the ballots and exert their right to vote electronically.

Geographical and population complexities led India to become a pioneer in the implementation of electronic voting. The adoption of this technology began in 1998, and in 2004, the electronic voting machines (EVM) became the sole means to vote in the country.

India’s automated model is based on a machine or electronic board in which a list of candidates is shown next to a series of switches. Voters select their preferred candidates through these switches and register their vote. The devices have been made by two local companies, Electronic Corporation of India Limited (ECIL) and Bharat Electronics Limited.

The impact of the use of electoral technology in this nation can be measured in all aspects: logistic, organizational, economic, ecologic, and in terms of guarantees. An example of its scope can be seen when comparing the following numbers: in 2009, 1,079 voting machines were used during elections in Rajasthan, the second largest state in India, whereas in 1998 —when automation began—, 39,754 conventional ballot boxes had to be used in the same region.

Thanks to e-voting, India has become a benchmark in the successful implementation of voting machines. However, it is striking that it has not yet fulfilled its promise to modernize its system by strengthening post electoral audits, and incorporating the printing of a vote receipt on paper to shield the people’s intent.

Even though India is still at the forefront of election automation globally, the nation is in need for an update of its modern system. For the moment, the nation has a defined plan, but the will to execute it is still missing.