Monday, September 30, 2013

Voting systems in the US and around the world

After the 2000 voting chads scandal in Florida, the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) promoted better practices in election administration and e-voting became the preferred voting method across most counties in the US. However, experimenting with digital-recording electronic (DRE) did not yield the expected results in many counties as much of the technology available at the time did not meet minimum quality standards. In practice, voting numbers did not match up to the actual number of voters, and some people reported votes “flipping” as they submitted their ticket. A few years after HAVA´s signing into a law (2002), DRE's became largely perceived as unreliable.

By the year 2006, and in light of the problems DREs faced, the US electoral commissions began opting for the optical-scanners at precincts to scan paper ballots. While the technology still presented many issues, like security flaws in tabulation and accessibility problems, at least the paper ballots offered a chance for counting or possible recounting, increasing voter confidence.

The evolution of the preferences of electoral commissions in the US has had a unique pattern. Other countries are much more homogeneous in their use of voting technology. Since the day Brasil, India, and Belgium began automating their elections, they have used DRE sytsems. Canada, Mongolia, and  the Philippines, use precinct count optical scanners.

Now, recent developments in the industry have put DREs back in the radar of those commissions planning to introduce technology based voting solutions. Under the concept of End to End E-voting, a new generation of voting machines have emerged. End-to-end auditable voting systems are those with strong tamper resistance and stringent integrity procedures. The new breed of DREs come with a printer which provides the voter with an opportunity to attest his/her vote is recorded properly.  

Since 2004 Venezuela has been using an End to End E-voting solution that prints voting vouchers. More than twelve national elections, certified by experts in the field put this South American nation in the forefront of election automation.  During the recent 2013 Presidential elections held in April, more than 80 percent of eligible voters turned out to vote. Additionally, the election result was certified after a challenge and total recount of the vote, which a 100% accuracy rate.

End-to-end implementation will lead to greater transparency, increased accuracy, greater voter confidence and turnout. Through the use of continual auditing, careful selection of field personnel, cryptographic builds, appropriate telecommunications and infrastructure, along with electoral accuracy tests and a final wrap-up audit; true and accurate results will be quickly certified. Peru, Colombia, Argentina, Georgia, are some of the nations in line to adopt E2E solutions.