Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Election Performance Index: a thorough analysis of the North American electoral system

As Election Day draws nearer, poll-related studies continue to be conducted, throwing further light on the current state of American elections and the developments it had undergone.

Recently, the PewTrust Research Center published the Election Performance Index (EPI), a comprehensive evaluation of the electoral system in all of the nation’s 50 states – including the District of Columbia. The study took into account 17 key indicators.

The EPI covers the 2008, 2010, 2012 and 2014 elections, measuring variables related to the problems faced by voters with disabilities, the availability of an online register, the voting of military personnel deployed abroad, voter turnout and the number of voters registered.  

These indicators reflect how several states have managed to improve their performance during elections, particularly when it comes to online registration and waiting times to vote.  

-          Online registration: Since 2008 there has been a steady increase of the number of states that offer this option to voters. This year, only two states (Washington and Arizona) opted for this technology upgrade. Today, over 20 states offer an online solution for voter registration and the update of their data.  

-          Voters with disabilities: During the past 4 elections, the District of Columbia, Mississippi and Alabama polled over 20% in the EPI when it came to voters who were unable to vote due to an illness or disability, due to the lack of proper conditions at the polling places and of solutions offered by the voting system.  

-          Voter turnout: The EPI reflects two important changes. On the one hand, during the 2008 and 2012 general elections, voter turnout did not surpass 80%, while for the midterm elections of 2010 and 2014 this index dropped to a mere 58%.  

These indicators, in addition to others in the study, show how states can continue to develop their electoral systems to offer voters more accessibility, transparency and security. These variables could be improved by the use of technology, leading to a stronger democracy. 

Monday, September 12, 2016

Democracy Day: Developing countries use technology to empower their citizens

Developing countries are now beginning to realize the power of technology in helping them deliver services more efficiently and provide their citizens with the tools needed for them to get involved in government initiatives more – especially in elections.

Asia and Africa are blazing the trail in this trend.  In the past ten years, countries such as India, Kenya, Uganda and Zimbabwe have rolled out innovations to improve the transparency, security, precision and reliability of their elections, positively impacting their democracies by committing to the objectives of the 2030 Agenda, the theme for Democracy Day 2016.

In India, the authorities have focused on a plan to improve their education system through e-government, guaranteeing better management and attention to the students in the country’s schools.
On the other hand, Prime Minister Narendra Modi invited startups and investors to join the efforts to develop automated voting machines that meet international security standards (such as printed voting vouchers), adding mechanisms that make voting easier and more accessible.

Governments in Africa have shown an approach focused on technology that modernizes electoral registries and makes voter authentication more effective.  Uganda successfully tried out a biometric system that was deployed at the polling centres, considerably reducing the possibilities of fraud.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission is analyzing the implementation of biometrics for the 2018 elections, in order to improve the electoral system by making it more inclusive and reliable.

The free world needs to adapt to the rapid advancements in technology and learn to harness its great power if it is to solve the many challenges confronting democracies nowadays.