Are we ready for electronic voting in elections? - Dispatch Weekly

November 28, 2019 - Reading time: 6 minutes

All over the world, the electoral processes vary by different margins. In some places, the system involves proportionality for all parties, while some are more interested in the technique of voting, favoring electronic voting over paper ballots.

When considering voting systems to employ, some critical factors are taken into account; else, the voting process may be compromised. Some of these factors are anonymity, trust, accessibility, and cost.

Every voter wants to know that their votes cannot be traced to them, ensuring they are secure and confidential. Also, they want to see that they can trust the voting system in place to correctly place their votes as they wish. They want to be confident in the fact that they can trust the system in place to accurately count their votes.

They want to be confident in the fact that the system is not tweaked to favor one party over another; such that their votes are counted as belonging to a party or candidate, they did not vote.

Also, voters want to cast their votes in easily accessible ways. Consideration is usually given to persons with a disability, for instance, to ensure they can cast their votes as effortlessly as everybody else.

On the part of the body organizing the election, they have to consider the cost of the entire process. The organizers need to seek innovative and cost-effective ways to manage the whole election process.

The electoral system adopted by different nations depends on their unique needs and resources. However, the paper ballot is the most widely used system of voting globally.

With the disruption brought about by technology and innovation, one wonders why electronic voting has not been welcome and deployed on a large scale. Between paper ballot and electronic voting, both have advantages and disadvantages over each other. However, it is essential to determine how they work.

How does paper ballot work?

In the paper ballot system, the voters mark their preferred candidates on a paper ballot, which is then collated by an election official and is manually counted. An upgrade to this system is the use of optical scanners. After the voters have marked their preferred candidates on the ballot paper, the optical scanning machine does the counting of votes, instead of an election official.

How does electronic voting work?

This involves using a touchscreen, button, or dial to cast a vote against ballot papers. In this case, the vote is cast into an electronic storage device, which also does the collating and aggregating within its server. At the end of the election, the result is displayed without any human input.

Of all types of voting available, the most widely used remains the paper ballot system. It has been trusted as the most secure means of voting for centuries. There are many reasons why electronic voting does not seem feasible yet, and that paper ballot remains the most widely used.

  • The software may be open source: If the body organizing the election decides to buy software for voting, there is the probability that the software is open-source and accessible to anybody, including hackers and other threats that may disrupt the election.
  • The process is subject to man-in-the-middle attacks: While such attacks have reduced in recent times, there are still odds against electronic voting surviving a cyber-attack.
  • The devices may be affected by malware: Getting control over all the systems proves difficult already. It gets harder to protect such complex systems from malware attacks. This could change the voting and collation on a grand scale.
  • Transit may be more difficult: moving systems from one point to another is more complicated than moving paper. Also, the security of the system may be compromised while in transit. Unlike the paper ballot system, where it is possible to see if the boxes have been tampered with while on transit, for the electronic system, the storage medium may be easily switched.

Also, people do not trust that the system recognizes their vote and does not change the figures. It may not be to convince a senior, for instance, that the system is easy to use and provides the level of security and safety offered by paper ballot. Even with blockchain technology, which people already have a hard time comprehending, the problems persist.

In the UK it isn’t possible to vote electronically but you can apply to vote by post for one of the following:

  • a single election on a specific date
  • a specific period if you want to vote in England, Scotland or Wales
  • permanently

Before the transition to electronic voting, voters have to be adequately informed on the process and its security. Also, the loopholes have to be fixed. The rapid pace of technology and innovations may eradicate these problems in the twinkle of an eye and replace the paper ballot system. Until then, we may not entirely be ready for electronic voting.

DW Staff

David Lintott is the Editor-in-Chief, leading our team of talented freelance journalists. He specializes in covering culture, sport, and society. Originally from the decaying seaside town of Eastbourne, he attributes his insightful world-weariness to his roots in this unique setting.