Series: automation of the vote. IV. The voting day

When e-voting is used, the electoral technology is applied in its maximum expression and capacity. The Election Day becomes the ideal opportunity to adopt the multiple tools available today to automate the elections.

The combination of technology, with a major or minor degree of complexity, will define if the elections are partially or totally automated and will also set the margin of how voters will be allowed to experiment with the technology that’s been created to facilitate the vote, but also to strengthen the guarantees of reliable and transparent elections.

In principle, the voting day can start for each citizen with one of the fastest growing tools in the world, despite critics: voter’s biometric identification. This technology created to verify the voter’s identity helps eliminate old vices of the manual systems, as in the case of double voting or impersonation. It is based on the use of machines that capture fingerprints, recognizes faces or signatures. The fingerprints, signatures or faces of the voters are compared with records previously taken, and once the machine makes the match of the recorded data, they enable the voter to exercise their right to vote.

Some countries such as Bolivia have carried out a complete record of their census using 3000 terminals, which collected the three forms of identification listed before. However, other countries such as Venezuela and Colombia have opted for fingerprint identification, using machines to verify the identity of the electorate.

Once the voter’s identity has been validated in an Election Day, a complex technology system can be put in place to complete electronically all phases: capturing the vote, vote counting, aggregation and transmission of results. However, today we will focus en the different voting alternatives.

There are many variants of e-voting, but most countries have adopted optical scan voting systems or direct-recording electronic (DRE) systems. The first system captures or registers the votes through the identification and reading of electoral ballots, while the second system records the votes electronically in the devices’ memory.

In the optical scan voting systems that are used in some American regions and previously in Belgium, traditional paper ballots are used that must be marked by each voter, that are processed by a technological device so that they can be counted. This happens when the voter takes the ballot to a scanner that tabulates the votes in the electoral center.

With a DRE system, voters mark their votes directly in voting machines. This system has uses at least two components: a keyboard and a touchscreen. In Brazil, the machines used have a keyboard because each voter has a personal number, and the vote is registered when the voter marks his or her option using the keyboard.

With the touchscreen machines, the voter touches his or her choice directly in the screen, which is immediately recorded in the devices’ memory. In more complex elections, electronic cards are used.

Venezuela stands out in this type of technology, as the machines provided by Smartmatic allow voting, and only after verifying the ballot, the person presses on the word VOTE followed by his or her choice on the touchscreen. The voter’s choice is stored in the machine and he or she will receive the vote’s printed proof, which must be then introduced personally into an urn. This last resource is currently evaluated by multiple nations, because it retains the speed and simplicity of the act of voting, and it delivers a receipt of the election, which can be used for subsequent audits.