Along with the improvements in digital technology, countries around the world have adopted electronic voting in their elections.
There are around twenty nations who are now using Electronic Voting Machines (EVMS). Brazil, in particular, conducted its first completely automated election in the year 2000 and is now lending its technology to neighboring South American countries.
Electronic polls demonstrate a country’s technological progress, help improve its democratic credentials, and possibly increase its voter turnout. Efficiency is the main draw of automation. Voter identification, more secure vote casting and tallying are also streamlined into a single process. This, then, tremendously speeds up the vote count.
Yet, there is currently a polarizing view on the use of EVMS. While electronic voting technologies are gaining traction in South America and Asia, parts of Western Europe and the US are increasingly becoming wary of the security threats that hound electronic polling. It is ironic to see that these developed countries are now reverting to the use of paper of ballots.
History of Voting Policy in the US
During its formative years, voting in America was quite public. Before the Revolutionary War, elections were held in local carnivals and people would just call out their votes to be counted. It was only in the 1800s when ballots were introduced. As politics grew increasingly complex and divisive, it became more important to keep one’s vote a secret.
By 1892, the confidentiality of written ballots and the privacy of voting was recognized as an important part of the democratic process. Different versions of the paper ballot were in use throughout centuries of American elections.
It wasn’t until the hanging chad fiasco that the integrity of paper voting was put into question. The presidential elections in 2000 between George W. Bush and Al Gore demanded for a recount of Florida’s ballots. The chaos which the incident caused resulted to a diversification of voting technology across the 50 states of America.
Five states (Delaware, Georgia, Louisiana, New Jersey, South Carolina) have paperless elections, opting to use direct-recording electronic voting machines which do not produce a paper record. In Colorado, Oregon, and Washington, constituents receive their paper ballots in the mail. Many other states use paper ballots that are scanned electronically.
The Flaws of Electronic Voting
Security and voter preference primarily drive the continuous use of paper ballots in the US. Aside from the expensive cost of upgrading to an automated election, there are several questions surrounding the reliability of an electronic voting system.
Paperless voting relies heavily on the integrity of its software because voting machines do not produce a paper record for the voter, nor does it keep an internal paper based journal that can be audited. The software is always under the threat of hacking or tampering unless foolproof cyber-security measures are in place.
Voting machines are also prone to glitches especially during election day. When machines are pulled to the side to get fixed, voters become worried that something could have gone wrong with their vote.
Auditability and transparency are always questioned in an electronic voting system. Some experts will argue that these two are more important than securing the system itself, since it is virtually impossible to create one which is un-hackable.
Perhaps the biggest contributor on why a growing number of US states are now returning to the basics is the alleged interference of the Russian government with the 2016 presidential elections, which was reported by the US intelligence community. There is an increasing fear that the same thing will happen to the 2018 midterm elections.
A number of bills have now been introduced in the US congress to address election security, but none of them have seemed to progress. In the meantime, most states turn to the paper ballot system.
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