It’s great to hear an intelligent discussion of electronic voting. You’d be surprised how many not-so-intelligent ones there are (or maybe you wouldn’t).
People can sometimes be closed minded, particularly if they have some vested interest in being that way. Speaking of interests, let me be clear about mine from the start – I work for a company that provides electronic voting technology and services.
We call ourselves the world leader because we've facilitated over 3,500 fraud-free elections around the world, more than any other organisation.
I don’t mean to give you a sales pitch. I'm just letting you know there is already some great voting technology here – and that actually it’s been around for some time (we ran our first election in 2004).
Our touchscreen voting machines produce a paper audit trail as well as store and transmit electronic votes. So not only are they completely secure – thanks to 256-bit encryption and redundancy features – they’re also demonstrably so, because you can compare the electronic count to the paper count to see if there are discrepancies. The beautiful thing about our system is that, in the over 2.3 billion votes the company has processed, there never have been discrepancies.
Techies are perhaps quite rightly obsessed with security. And many security experts take the view that anything can be hacked, because under lab conditions that’s probably true. Yet consider the fact that our voting machines are only connected to the outside world for a few seconds and it’s no wonder our CEO believes that our system is effectively tamper-proof.
Even if someone could alter the counts in one machine (and it’s hard to see how even that would be possible without us noticing), would that be enough to swing a vote? And how would you change the electronic count in a machine or a server without it showing up as different from the paper count?
Electronic voting supported by a paper trail allows for far more transparent, auditable and accurate elections. There needn’t be any human error or spoiled votes and you can get results with a couple of hours.
It’s a great way to build trust and technology also means elections become more accessible, helping disabled voters cast their ballots independently. With these benefits, we’re seeing more and more countries taking an interest. Ironically, it’s not the big Western democracies leading the charge. Look at the elections in the Philippines and in Venezuela and in particular what The Carter Center (the world’s leading independent election observation organisation) has said about them.
@Treeman: You mention machine malfunctions. Failure rates in our machines are low. For example, in Ecuador’s sectional elections, our most recent deployment, we had a failure rate of 0.2 percent. This doesn’t mean that the machines recorded the vote wrong (this simply isn’t possible because voters get a paper receipt telling them how they voted); it just means that, for whatever reason, the hardware didn’t work.
Again, using Ecuador as an example, this electronic voting pilot involved 1,121 machines with a further 120 on standby to replace ones that didn’t work (which, at 0.2 percent of 1,121 machines, is two).
@kentuckycat: In answer to your question, if the machine froze, you would simply use another. Each polling location generally has several polling stations. And we always supply back up machines, just in case.
@jcraig: Touchscreens are exactly what we’ve been offering since 2004. They’re great because they’re so user-friendly and it’s impossible to spoil a vote. Perhaps most importantly, as this article, points out, our machines print paper voting receipts which can be used to audit the electronic count.