Monday, October 22, 2012

E-voting, ready for any contingency

Image: xandert

Countries with an automated voting system can always trust that their election days will run smoothly. Millions of people attending thousands of polling stations all throughout the nation may sound like an uncontrollable situation, but the reliability of voting automation makes it possible to turn elections into a safe and easy exercise for citizens and authorities alike. Moreover, if something unexpected happens shortly before the event and a modification in schedules or candidate lists becomes necessary, e-voting is ready to adapt to these abrupt changes. This is one more of its many advantages over manual voting methods.

A country’s political panorama is not exempt from contingencies that can alter the course of its electoral calendar. For example, a candidate could be abruptly forced to abandon the electoral race, or a major event could force the government to suspend elections and hold them on another day. For manual voting, this would be a tragedy, as logistics demand enough anticipation for the printing and deployment of material in the different polling places. A sudden change would translate into the loss of millions of dollars in wasted material, and reprogramming the event would take a long time before everything is ready one more time.

E-voting, on the other hand, offers alternatives that are adaptable to last-minute changes. DRE machines do not need paper ballots, as voters make their choice on a touchscreen and information is stored electronically. Therefore, if something were to change in terms of options for candidates, the only thing to do would be to reprogram the voting machines with the new candidate list. This obviously takes much less time than having to produce a whole new batch of paper ballots, not to mention its cost-effectiveness.

It is worth mentioning, though, that the ease with which voting machines can be tailored to emergency modifications does not mean that the information they carry after ballots are cast can be modified as well. Voting machines are equipped with advanced encryption software that shields them from any attempt to interfere with elections. Besides, after the machines are delivered at the polling stations and tested for zero votes, they can only be activated by each voter through a biometric authentication device. This way, security and transparency are always guaranteed.

Elections carried out through manual voting must somehow trust that nothing will deviate from the established plan in order to keep their schedule and material intact. Unforeseen events that become a threat to manually performed polls are mere bumps on the road for electronic voting, always reliable and up to any challenge.