Monday, August 19, 2013

Better representation and improved efficiency with e-voting

Source: The Daily Caller

In the United States, they talk about having a government that is of the people, by the people and for the people. That is why elections are held.

One of the challenges with this kind of system is that the elected officials may not necessarily or accurately reflect the views of their constituents. The United States of America is largely a two-party system: Democrats and Republicans. However, even those who vote one way or the other may not agree with all the opinions of their chosen candidate.

How can elected governments offer better representation?

While it certainly would address the problem completely on its own, e-voting can play a critical role in facilitating a process that could allow for better and more diverse representation of the population. With paper ballots, there is inherently limited space on the ballot and only a limited number of candidates can be listed. Furthermore, if there are any last minute additions, it can be nearly impossible to add them to a paper ballot. However, using a direct recording electronic (DRE) voting machine, this change can be made from a centralized location and easily distributed among all the machines in time for an election.

What happens when a larger number of parties or candidates want to make it onto a paper ballot? An extreme example of this can be illustrated by the Senate ballot paper by the Australian Electoral Commission. There are 46 parties registered for that election with 11 more still up for consideration as of early July. The net result is a piece of paper that is 1.02 meters wide.

That's somewhat comical, to say the least, but it is also unwieldy and could cause logistical issues when it comes time to counting the ballots. Even if voting machines are not used, e-voting technology to scan and tabulate the ballots would significantly improve this process. The extra wide ballot could be fed into an appropriate optical scanning machine and the vote counted in an electronic fashion. This is far more efficient and expedient than a worker or volunteer unravelling the giant paper and looking for the votes manually.

Voting machines have evolved a great deal since the days of the original "ballot" boxes with the depositing of balls into clay pots. An automated voting system can improve the democratic process and allow for better representation of constituents, because the technology is far more flexible and can allow for a near infinite number of candidates and parties.

This way, a government of the people and by the people can really be of the people and by the people, rather than having to choose a candidate that you prefer only slightly more than his opponent.