Thursday, November 20, 2014

The advancing innovations and trends of voting technology

All industries and business sectors should aspire for continuous innovation, ceaselessly moving forward with changes that make for a better product or experience by all. In the case of mobile phones, the rise of the smartphone and mobile apps has completely revolutionized the way that people communicate on the go. Modern cars are packed with an increasing assortment of technology, providing drivers and passengers with more comfort, better safety and improved fuel economy.

In the context of elections, the pace of innovation can sometimes feel slowed by the bureaucracies of government, but this should not thwart the continuing advances in creating a better and more efficient voting process. This should include innovations for the election infrastructure, hardware and software for collecting ballots, and advances in the tabulation and reporting of results.

Traditionally, innovations that impact how the voter casts a ballot tend to create friction as they have direct require legal framework adaptations. As a rule of thumb, the closer the technology is to the voter, the harder it is to implement it. 
That is why, some of the innovations being implemented in the industry address problems either before the voter casts a ballot, or after when the vote is being processed. To better illustrate our point, let’s look at three recent elections that employed technology in different stages. 

Voter authentication
Biometric technology can help to protect against election fraud, giving voters greater confidence in the integrity and legitimacy of results. In Brazil, approximately 21 million voters where authenticated biometrically before casting a ballot, thus eliminating the possibility of voter impersonation. Authorities are expecting to extend the use of the biometric devices to the entire electorate by 2017. 

Electronic poll books 
Among the many recommendations made by the Presidential Commission on Election Administration electronic poll books emerged as one source of possible innovation in the field. The report, handed to the President of the US on January 1st, 2014, sees e-poll books as a way for jurisdictions to make voter processing at polling places more accurate and efficient. The report stated “In the national survey of election of­ficials, e-poll books was one of the most frequently identified innovations that respon­dents desired.”

The Onondaga County Board of Elections recently tried a new electronic poll book during the recent midterm elections in the US. Using an electronic pad similar to what it is used to pay with credit cards at grocery stores, polling management got much easier. 

According to Onondaga County Elections Commissioners, Dustin Czarny, and Helen Kiggins Walsh voters at three polling places were asked to sign their names on the electronic pad. Also, elections inspectors typed voters' names into a database, to pull up information.

Promising to end long lines at polling stations, an election technology provider, everyone counts is also promoting their Electronic Polling Book in their website. 

Results processing

Oonce voters have left the precincts, there are still plenty of instances where administrators can use some help from technology. 

Recently, the West Heath Ward by-election of the Rushmoor Borough Council in the United Kingdom, used a digital pen to streamline the transmission of results. The digital pen, adapted to elections by Smartmatic, was employed in two aspects of the West Heath by-election. It was used by the election officials during the official tabulation and reporting of the election results. More specifically, it was used by officials with the ballot box verification form and the election results verification form. The former aggregates the final tally in each box, while the latter records the results for each electoral candidate. In both cases, the ePen was able to digitally capture the important information, allowing election officials to quickly and easily verify and transmit the results.