Voting is a basic process of making decisions, especially in a democratic system.
It is an opportunity for people in an area to have a say in the kind of people who governs them.
There are different ways of collecting votes, but this depends on the system.
While voting systems used in regular decision-making can be used in electoral systems, not all electoral voting processes can be used in all settings.
In small organizations, voting can occur in several ways. It can be done formally via ballot or informally as a gesture or spoken agreement.
In a democratic country, the voting process is usually straightforward. However, a citizen must meet the standard requirements before casting votes.
Either way, the methods of casting votes differ. One of these methods is electronic voting.
What is electronic Voting?
Electronic voting is the use of electronic means to aid the voting process.
It uses the electronic Voting machine (EVM) or computers that have a secure internet connection.
The voter usually selects a touch-screen display, although the audio interface can be used for people with visual disabilities.
In electronic voting, you consider the basic steps in an election. The first is ballot composition, where voters make choices; the second, ballot casting, where voters submit their votes.
The third is ballot recording, where the system records the ballots and ballot tabulation where the votes are counted.
All these processes, especially ballot composition, are done using a computer.
There are two types of electronic voting techniques: internet voting (I-voting) and electronic voting (e-voting).
With the rapid spread of internet use, the voting process naturally grew to fit the new trend.
In internet voting, voters will cast their votes from any computer that is connected to the internet.
The i-voting system quickly became an opportunity to make democracy easier.
However, several countries decided that the internet was not a secure means of voting; therefore, this method is not often used.
The electronic voting system is the use of Electronic Voting machines to cast votes from designated polling stations.
E-voting systems are more secured than internet voting because it is done under the supervision of electoral bodies.
This system speeds up the election process and makes it easier to recount votes if need be.
What is an electronic Voting Machine?
An Electronic voting machine (EVM) is an electronic device used for voting and recording votes instead of papers and boxes.
Before the emergence of these machines, people vote by putting a stamp on their choice of candidate, folding the paper, and putting it into the ballot box.
This process was not only time consuming but prone to errors. The use of electronic machines has made the process easier, faster, and more convenient.
Types of electronic voting machine?
There are two types of electronic voting equipment: Direct recording electronic (DRE) and Optical Scanning machines.
Direct Recording machines (DRE)
A DRE is made up of a touch screen that is connected to a computer system. Ballots are presented on the touch screen where voters can make a choice and cast ballots. The touch screen can assist a voter in various ways, like displaying clear fonts for a visual problem. It also assists officials by alerting for undervotes and preventing overvotes.
Direct Recording machines record the ballots directly and store the data in their storage space. Therefore, this single machine is used for ballot composition, ballot casting, and recording of votes. Nonetheless, the machine’s hardware and software should be tested for assurance that it works perfectly.
However, while testing for faults in hardware is highly reliable, the same cannot be said for the software. There is malicious software that could interfere with voting and might not be detected before use. Thus, several techniques are used to check the software to ensure that it is not faulty or intercepted.
Even during the process, this machine could be intercepted. To prevent this, the machine is usually not connected to the internet or a wireless device. The threats these machines are exposed to make them less preferable to the optical scanning technology.
Features of Direct Recording machines
- A touchscreen to mark votes
- A device that registers individual votes after the voter casts it
- Optionally, it has a printer that generates a Voter Verifiable Audit Trial
- It has a communication device that transmit votes to the counting location
Optical scanning machines
The voter fills a paper ballot for some optical scanning machines and puts it into an electronic scanning device. These scanners reject ballots that were improperly marked, allowing the voter to repeat the process, and lessening discarded votes.
In other optical scanning systems, voters must compose their vote on a computer screen; once the voter completes a ballot, the computer prints out an optical scanning ballot. The voter then verifies the printed ballot and puts it into a different device to scan and table the vote.
Features of Optical scanning machines
- It has a character recognition technology that identifies the person voting
- Interprets data correctly
Advantages of Electronic Voting
- Convenient voting
With the introduction of electronic voting, voters are saved from the stress of standing for so long in a queue that seems never to end.
Electronic voting makes the process easy, thereby allowing people to cast their votes without delay.
For countries that use the internet voting system, voters can vote from any location, which is more convenient for them.
It is also so much easier to use, not just for the voters but the electoral officers.
The machine does most of the collecting data and counting votes making it easier for the electoral body to record votes.
- Faster delivery of election results
With Electronic voting machines, counting and sorting of votes have become a very easy process. It makes the delivery of election results faster.
- Cost effective
Another major advantage of e-voting is that it reduces expenses. Paper votes require people to count and transport them. With e-voting, this is no longer necessary, thereby saving the expenses of paying out so much to have votes counted.
- An error-free election
The EVMs are programmed to prevent errors by making each vote valid. This builds trust in election results as there are fewer human errors involved in voting.
- Increased voter turn-out
When the process is easy, people would be encouraged to participate. Thus, the use of electronic voting equipment increases participation in voting.
Additionally, internet voting allows citizens abroad to take part in the voting process. It also makes it easy for people with visual impairments to cast their votes.
- Reduced waste
EVM has drastically reduced ballot waste as most of the processes are now done using an electronic device.
Disadvantages of Electronic Voting Machine
Despite the advantages of electronic voting machines, it also has some drawbacks. Listed below are some of them.
- It can be easily hacked
One of the major disadvantages of electronic voting is hacking. As with most electronic devices, there is a high risk of being hijacked and used for malicious purposes.
This can be done either by physical or remote means.
In addition, allowing people to vote with their phones also poses a great risk. This is because a hacker can easily have access to the votes without being detected.
- Susceptible to fraud
As with most voting systems, electronic votes can be manipulated by people with evil intentions. Malicious systems programmed to falsify votes can be created and distributed to be used for votes.
- Hardware faults
Electronic voting machines can develop faults while in use. If one part of the machine is faulty, it automatically affects the functionality of other parts.
- Secure storage of votes
Votes cast using the machines are stored in a safe space in the computer machine memory. However, it contains redundant storage that is not dependable.