The Inherent Difficulties and Complexities of Voting Electronically: An Overview

The Inherent Difficulties and Complexities of Voting Electronically: An Overview

Dimitrios Zissis (University of the Aegean, Greece) and Dimitrios Lekkas (University of the Aegean, Greece)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8358-7.ch003
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Abstract

Countries worldwide have been conducting trials and holding pilots to evaluate the benefits and detriments of introducing electronic voting; while some have successfully implemented state of the art voting solutions, others have decided to abandon such attempts altogether. Across the field, one can see a multitude of different approaches, revealing the wide diversification of political cultures, legal regulations, social requirements, and contexts, within which this technology must be deployed. The approaches adopted can thus seem to be contradictory or indeed diametrically opposed. The purpose of this chapter is thus twofold. Firstly, it attempts to provide an introduction to the field of electronic voting while reviewing the most recent advances and related literature. Secondly, it attempts to evaluate under a perspicacious vision the level of maturity of the technology.
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Voting Technologies

In a democracy, the most vital citizen participation process is voting, as it can inherently facilitate the expression of the general will and unify citizens into a single body. Government’s across the globe have been exploring methods to digitalize this process, as a way to deal with declining election turnout and political apathy, but also speed up the process, reduce costs and increase tally accuracy. This is far from a straight forward task, as voters in democracies around the world currently cast their vote in one of a variety of ways. Hence, elections differ from nation to nation, not only with respect to the technology chosen to determine the elected candidates (e.g., proportional, majoritarian), but also in respect to the procedures, the way in which votes can be cast, the organizations involved, etc. (Weldemariam, 2010).

The voting method we are most accustomed to today is referred to as the Australian secret ballot. In its basic form, a voter is provided with a piece of paper on which his vote is noted. His vote is then sealed inside an envelope and cast into a public ballot box, to be opened at the end of the election for tally. An election conducted using the Australian secret ballot can only be considered trustworthy, if every ballot is strictly accounted for and no blank ballots escape the control of the election officials. The greatest weakness in this scheme lies in the way that votes are counted. Tally teams must include representatives of opposing parties to ensure that the votes are counted appropriately. The process of calculating the final tally is time consuming and exceptionally vulnerable to human errors.

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