Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The World is Hip to E-Voting

Electronic voting is quick for voters, helps to prevent spoiled ballots, and counts votes in an instant. Election polls in general have historically experienced mixed results or fraud from myriad voting systems, but overall, electronic voting has made the process more efficient and secure for the United States and countries worldwide.
The May 2010 national election in the Philippines was that country’s first nation-wide automated election, and 50 million Filipinos took part in one of the smoothest elections in their history. The results were available in 12 hours, making it also the fastest vote count the 7000 island country had ever experienced.

The Philippines have become a model of technology adoption for the democratic process in Southeast Asia and set a strong positive example for the adoption of e-voting in developing nations worldwide. Ecuador, for example, is on track to implement e-voting by 2013 and successfully tested 160 machines supplied by the Brazilian government in 2006. Other developing countries in the process of implementing electronic voting plans include Colombia, Argentina, Pakistan, Bolivia, Kenya, and Zambia among others.

India, the world's largest democracy, has been using electronic voting across the entire country since the general election in 2004. For decades previous, voters in India marked a paper ballot with a rubber stamp. After days of counting votes it took additional months to sort out allegations of fraud.

India’s current electronic voting machine is inexpensive, easy to use, and more resistant to tampering than the previous system. The machine’s programming is hard-wired onto a microprocessor that can’t be reprogrammed, and it can be shut down if trouble arises.
These security features have been highly successful in India, where elections are often plagued by fraud with wild as thugs taking over an entire polling station and tying up election officials and stuffing ballot boxes with vote after vote.

In 2009, the Brazilian government offered a $5,000 reward to security experts and hackers if they could successfully crack security codes or change voting machine votes. The challenge to hack the machines was in response to some Brazilian political parties claiming that elections could be manipulated by computer experts. The hackers were unsuccessful in tampering with the machines, and in addition, officials gathered some useful overall process improvements from the test.

Observers feared that possible voting machine flaws might cause a meltdown in their first widespread national application during the 2004 U.S. general election, but polling went off with only minor glitches. The 2004 election was much more accurate than the 2000 election, experts say, because e-voting machines helped people avoid mistakenly voiding their ballots.

In Australia, e-voting software is completely open to public scrutiny. Based on a Linux open-source operating program, the code for their machines is transparent and available publicly on the Internet. Their theory, which has proven correct, is that greater transparency leads to better democracy. Public review of the code helped sift out minor bugs after it was posted and continues to prevent developers from implementing any subversive code.

With all these positive e-voting turnouts, we should remember that electronic machines are not a panacea. Some countries are far from successful democracies independent of their selected voting apparatus . However, what we’ve seen over the past decade is a paradigm shift from traditional to electronic voting machines throughout a majority of the democratic world. Most of Europe, the U.S., Australia, and numerous other countries have switched and done so successfully.