Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The electronic vote in the United States

There are over 3,140 electoral mechanisms in the United States, which are used according to the decisions made by the local authorities of each state. The country has timidly started to shift between the old fashioned electoral systems, to new modern, efficient, secure and reliable electoral technology systems.

These technologies are starting to replace in many states obsolete voting systems, such as old punch card systems that were used for decades, which have been heavily questioned and criticized because of their errors in identity and counting. Some states even used old systems that employed mechanical levers machines to choose between the different options in an election. has made an inventory that portrays the multiple variants of at least three automated procedures for voting used in the United States:
The mixed system:
According to the VVO inventory, this system is used by 66.74% of the 181 million voters in the country. It uses traditional paper ballots that must be marked by each voter, but are counted by a technological device.
There are two ways for completing this process. In the first case, the voter must put the ballot in a scanner that tabulates the votes in the electoral center (used by the 37.38% of the voters). And in the second case, the ballot is introduced in an urn that is then taken to a counting center where a device identifies the markings of the voters in the ballots, and the vote is then registered or invalidated if the voter marked more than one voting option.

Direct-recording electronic voting machines (DRE)

This method is used by 33.22% of the voters and consists of touch screen machines in which voters directly mark their votes. There are three variants of this system:
  • Machines that print in paper the proof of vote (it is only used by 8.13% of the voters)
  • Machines that do not provide the printed proof of vote (used by 24.90% of the voters)
  • Machines that print the proof of vote, but its use is established by the authorities (used only by 0.19% of the voters)

Punch Cards

This system is almost obsolete, but it is still used in few places. It is used only by 0.04% of the voters in the United States.

During the 2010 elections, 25 states participated in the Electronic Voting System project: Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Nevada, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Utah, Washington, and West Virginia. All these states witnessed the use of new electoral systems, such as touch screens with no printed proof of the vote, ballots, and optical scanners.

Alabama is a good example that shows how electronic voting companies work together offering technology that supplies the needs of each state to facilitate the voting process of a complicated voting system such as the American system.

Various companies supported the electoral process of Alabama: Election Systems & Software (ES&S), Dominion Voting (previously Sequoia Voting Systems) and Premier Election Solutions (Diebold):

  • ES&S furnished two machines to the state of Alabama: AutoMARK and model 100.
  • Dominion Voting offered two machines: the AVC Edge II Plus and the Optech Insight
  • Premier Election Solutions created two technological solutions for Alabama: AccuVote-TSX and AccuVote-OS.

The United States represents a very promising electoral technology market, which is expanding in each state. Very soon, the country will witness many changes and advances regarding the systems that have been implemented in other nations, to strengthen the electronic vote as the most efficient, transparent and secure method to conduct electoral processes.