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Issues in Introducing Automated Voting. Jennifer McCoy Carter Center Forum Revista Semana. What is automated voting?. Using electronic means to cast a vote. Counting, tabulating, and aggregating votes may also be automated. Voter registration may be automated.

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Issues in Introducing Automated Voting

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Issues in introducing automated voting l.jpg

Issues in Introducing Automated Voting

Jennifer McCoy

Carter Center

Forum Revista Semana

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What is automated voting?

  • Using electronic means to cast a vote.

  • Counting, tabulating, and aggregating votes may also be automated.

  • Voter registration may be automated.

  • Voter identification may be automated (electronic registers or notebooks; or biometric.

  • Candidate registration may be automated.

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Forms of automated voting

  • Optical scan machines – voter marks ballot then feeds ballot into a machine to record it.

  • DRE – direct record electronic vote – voter touches a screen or pushes a button to directly record vote in a computer.

  • Internet voting – at home on the computer.

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Where is it occurring?

  • Next three slides from Julia Pomares, London School of Economics and Political Science, and Buenos Aires.

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Donde se implementa?

Marcha atrás

(8 países)

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Tendencias (I)

VE se concentra en América y Europa aunque 2 de los 7 países con implementación completa son asiáticos (India y Filipinas)

4 de los 7 casos con VA completo son países emergentes / en vías de desarrollo

Incluye los países democráticos con mayor población del mundo. 27% de población mundial

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Tendencias (II)

La mayoría de casos con implementación en elecciones locales no llegó a implementación a nivel nacional

Etapa de auge de fines de los noventa dio paso a etapa de retroceso a fines de 2000: varios países –especialmente en Europa- decidieron abandonar intentos de cambios a VA

Tipo de VA: voto por internet sólo de forma completa en Estonia. Varios países en Europa realizando pruebas.

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Every Voting System has Trade-offs

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Can observe counting

Can store materials for recounts


Slow counting

Cumbersome ballots

Can thwart secret ballot (cadenas)

Can falsify or destroy ballots

Can falsify actas

Manual voting

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Voter marks ballot, machine reads ballot

Retains voter-marked ballot for recounts


Can malfunction with poor paper, ink, poor maintenance

Optical Scan

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Faster counting.

Complicated votes may be simplified.

Security mechanisms.

Can be more inclusive: blind people may use headphones and vote; multiple languages possible.


Poorly understood by citizens – “black box”

Cannot directly observe count.

Difficult to verify vote cast.

Automated voting

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  • Automated voting will not necessarily create trust in the system.

  • The voting system itself is not the basis of credibility.

  • If the election authority is not trusted, it does not matter what system is used.

  • In polarized situations, the best technical system still will be questioned.

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Contrast Brazil with Venezuela/U.S.

  • Brazil introduced automated voting and by mid-1990s entire country using it, without paper trail. Confidence.

  • Venezuela lost confidence in 1990s with manual voting and introduced optical scan (2000) and then DRE (2004). None enjoyed full confidence.

  • U.S. lost confidence in 2000 Florida vote (butterfly ballot manual); grand movement to DRE (and some optical scan); now movement back in California, or insistence on paper trails.

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How produce trust when introducing automated voting?

  • Transparency on choice of system.

  • Pilots – go slowly. Start locally.

  • Independent certification (open source code or expert verification of proprietary code; e.g. Kennesaw University in Atlanta, Georgia, USA).

  • Pre and Post-audits and tests with political party and citizen participation.

  • Voter verification or confirmation of vote.

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Decisions to make

  • How many elements of process to automate?

    • Many countries choose just one aspect, but one country – Venezuela has completely automated system, from candidate registration to voter identification to vote casting, transmission, and tabulation.

  • Factors to consider: cost, capacity, perception of the problem trying to solve.

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Decisions (continued)

Voter verification method:

1. Voter review and confirm/correct electronic vote.

2. Paper trail – but printer can malfunction

  • Voter handle ballot receipt or Voter view ballot receipt behind glass?

  • How does voter rectify mistake?

  • What if discrepancy between paper count and electronic count?

    Perceptions of trust enter into choice here as well.

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Common Disputes

  • Parties not given access to sourcecode.

  • Suspicions of “black box”(Trojan horse, Easter eggs).

  • Inadequate pre-audits and certifications.

  • Vague legal provisions for discrepancies between electronic and paper counts.

    • (most often electronic vote is the legal one and paper one just confirms & builds trust, but rarely is a procedure provided for voter to dispute result when discrepancy.)

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International Observation of Automated Voting

  • The Carter Center has been working with other international organizations to develop standards and practices to observe automated voting systems.

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