Thursday, March 21, 2013

Promoting inclusion and participation with e-voting

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos

One of the numerous advantages of a properly implemented e-voting system is that it promotes inclusion and broadens the range of citizens that can partake in Democracy, since its technical characteristics make it easier for the electorate to exert their right to suffrage. Paired with educational campaigns, e-voting can help to increase voter turnout. E-voting’s achievement in encouraging inclusion and participation can be reflected in three important stages: implementation, registration, and the act of voting itself.

Successful implementation of a new electoral platform relies heavily on properly stimulating participation and overcoming resistance to change. Some people might find a new technology confusing and therefore not vote, but such an effect should disappear as soon as they become familiar with the new system. This is why it is vital to set up campaigns to familiarize the electorate with the voting technology and cast away myths or any apprehensions. The Philippines are a good example of a successful implementation campaign. In 2010, the country embarked on a voter education journey to familiarize the electorate with tits newly implemented electronic voting platform. The nationwide campaign permeated all media, both traditional (press, radio, TV) and new (social networks, cartoons), and it pointed at traditional Filipino cultural values to make citizens feel identified and included. This stimulated people to vote, as they felt identified with the new technology and did not perceive it as something incomprehensible and alien to them.

At the voter registration level, biometric authentication solves the problem of registration deadlines, which pose a significant barrier to voting. 87 percent of Americans live in states that shut down registration two or more weeks before Election Day. Some voters are completely unaware of these deadlines and believe they still have time to register and vote even as the polling stations close. With biometric authentication, voters just need their thumbprint to be scanned by the biometric device in order to enable their voting session. The use of biometric authentication also solves another critical problem at polling stations: the requirement for an ID for voters, which is considered a form of disenfranchisement for minorities.

Finally, when it comes to the act of casting ballots, no method equals e-voting in inclusion and equality. Some models of electoral technology nowadays are equipped with functionalities that enable suffrage for voters with sensory and motor disabilities. This guarantees that no voter is left behind for any reason.

A properly implemented e-voting system not only eliminates the risk of fraud, but it also ensures that Democracy is perpetuated. With e-voting, all citizens feel included and are thus compelled to participate more. This way, no matter the outcome, the whole country wins.