Friday, May 25, 2012

Who’s Ready for E-Voting?

The increasing implementation of automated voting solutions is nowadays a reality that nations with manual or obsolete electoral systems are evaluating in order to guarantee more transparency and confidence to their citizens. What are the factors or standards a nation has to consider in order to determine if it's ready for adopting or modernizing its voting system?

Robert Krimmer and Ronald Schuster, from the Competence Center for E-voting and Participation in Vienna, have proposed an E-voting Readiness Index. They analyzed several countries under different criteria such as their information society context, legal and political circumstances and e-voting application. Krimmer and Schuster expected to find a higher level of inclination in countries where computer and Internet penetration was high and e-government standards had been developed. Based on these decisive factors, results were ranked in an effort to see which criteria would affect each country’s readiness to adopt e-voting.

However, the study failed to serve as a reflection of reality, as the index became a simple group of figures and information that described various aspects of each country’s current situation but had little relation with the actual status of its e-voting experience. For example, even though Venezuela scored low in Krimmer and Schuster’s study, the country’s success in implementing e-voting has been enormous. It has actually set an example for the rest of the region in terms of electoral technology adoption. In Venezuela, both political forces have won elections using the same electoral technology since 2004. Just in February 2012, the Coalition for Unity (formed by opposition parties) held its primary elections with the automated voting system, and the event was proclaimed a definite success. If the score of Venezuela was as low as the researchers suggested in their study, the electoral authority wouldn’t exhibit the 73% of approval and trust it has, according to the respected local polling firm Datanálisis (2012). Conscious of the study’s limitations, the researchers concluded that “future work will concentrate on finding significant relationships between contextual factors and the successful deployment of E-Voting.”

We could reckon that there are no formulas to determine which nations are ready to implement a transformation in their systems. A clear willingness to change is the first of several important factors that should be considered. A thorough review of the electoral legislative framework, an evaluation of providers able to adapt to each country’s needs, and clean bidding process to select them, are some of the key aspects that will guarantee a successful implementation of voting technology.