Democracy is one of the bedrock principles that lies beneath modern civilization. Advances in technology have constantly changed and shaped the way citizens engage in the electoral process, though. Today, electronics have a huge role to play in the casting, collecting, and counting of ballots in most countries. This makes the electronic voting system an important part of the democratic process, and one that many citizens could stand to learn more about.
The Electronic Voting System Defined
The requirements for voting systems to be considered “electronic” are surprisingly broad. Technically speaking, any system that collects, transmits, and tabulates votes with the aid of electronics and computers qualifies. This means that electronic voting has actually been used in major elections since the 1960s.
In the modern era, electronic voting is divided into two major fields. In-person electronic voting is the traditional process in which voters cast their ballots at a centralized location under the supervision of election officials. As the hardware involved has become more advanced, most of these systems have moved towards direct-recording electronic voting, commonly called DRE. The other type of electronic voting is remote voting, where voters cast their ballots over the Internet.
As with any system used to decide an election, the security and accuracy of an electronic voting system is paramount. As electronic communications play an increasingly important role in collecting and tabulating voting data, the security of the hardware and software involved has been intensely scrutinized. The integrity of the electronic records involved in an electronic system must be protected by the best possible security to prevent either accidental mistakes or intentional changes (i.e. vote fraud).
Because the results of an election may call for close scrutiny of the individual votes that have been cast, producing and maintaining an auditable trail is extremely important in electronic voting. This is one reason that “hybrid” systems that produce both an electronic record and a paper ballot remain popular in many parts of the United States.
Advantages And Disadvantages
Electronic voting is a contentious topic in the American political landscape of the twenty-first century. The widespread adoption of electronic voting machines has produced numerous benefits. These include faster result tabulation, greater accessibility for physically challenged voters, and increased vote retention. Electronic systems can accurately capture votes that may be missed by paper-only balloting systems.
However, not all observers are satisfied with the security measures used to protect most American voting systems. The integrity of both the hardware and software involved has been repeatedly called into question. One major step forward would be increased transparency from voting machine manufacturers and operators, but few of them are willing to fully disclose how their systems operate.
Despite the very real concerns that cast a shadow over the reliability of electronic voting methods, some degree of technological assistance is necessary to hold elections in a timely fashion in large democratic countries. This means that electronic voting is a topic that should be of great concern for all educated voters. By better understanding how these systems work, informed citizens will be better able to identify potential flaws in the electoral process that give them a voice in their government.