Friday, July 26, 2013

What forms of E-voting are used today?

The term "electronic voting" or "e-voting" for short can actually refer to many different types of technologies. We have discussed many facets of e-voting over the course of the last three years, but we now feel the need to return and visit the term "electronic voting." This should be particularly insightful for those of you who are new to reading this blog.

"Electronic voting" can refer to technology that is used to cast the actual vote, as well as technology that is used to tabulate or count the votes. "E-voting" can also sometimes be used in the context of transmitting the information related to the ballots and votes from voting places to central offices.

The most common use of the term "e-voting" would refer to the concept of using a computerized voting machine with electronic ballots rather than using more traditional paper ballots that are marked with a pen or pencil and tabulated manually. The voting machines are usually referred to as DREs or direct-recording electronic machines. The term "Electronic Voting Machine" or "EVM" is also sometimes used.

There are multiple types of DREs that are currently being used around the world. Some DREs use a touchscreen where the voter casts his or her ballot by pressing the appropriate button on the display. Other DREs may involve buttons, wheels or keys next to a computer screen for voters to cast their ballots. Direct-recording electronic voting machines are typically used under the supervision of government representatives or independent electoral authorities.

Varying types of electronic voting machines may be more accessible to different populations. In the case of a touchscreen display, the words can be enlarged for voters who have trouble reading the smaller print on traditional paper ballots. This can also allow for ballots to be displayed in multiple languages for areas where voters may be more comfortable reading instructions in different languages.

Electronic voting may also include remote electronic voting. This would be the case where the voter can act independently without having to go physically to a specific voting place, as the ballot can be cast remotely. This includes voting over the Internet at a computer or using a mobile phone, either through the mobile web or by sending a text message. Less commonly, votes may also be cast via Internet-connected televisions using special channels and technology. Remote e-voting has also been called i-voting, largely because the votes are typically cast over some sort of Internet connection.

The use of electronic voting in the context of counting up all the ballots has a longer history than the use of DREs and other electronic forms of casting a vote. For example, some paper ballots may be punch cards. What this means is that when a voter casts his or her ballot, the punch card can be entered directly into the counting machine that can then automatically read the ballot and add the vote to the final tabulation. Similarly, optical scan machines can use an electronic reader to record the vote rather than having a human volunteer or official record each individual vote. This can be far more efficient and take far less time than the manual counting of votes. Since there is still a paper ballot, it is easier if there needs to be a re-count or an audit for a set of ballots.

E-voting continues to gain popularity all around the world. It is being used in varying levels of capacity in such countries as Venezuela, Canada, Australia, Belgium, Philippines, Brazil, India and the United States.