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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

Issues in Introducing Automated Voting

Jennifer McCoy

Carter Center

Forum Revista Semana

what is automated voting
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.
forms of automated voting
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.
where is it occurring
Where is it occurring?
  • Next three slides from Julia Pomares, London School of Economics and Political Science, and Buenos Aires.
donde se implementa
Donde se implementa?

Marcha atrás

(8 países)

tendencias i
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

tendencias ii
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.

manual voting


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
optical scan

Voter marks ballot, machine reads ballot

Retains voter-marked ballot for recounts


Can malfunction with poor paper, ink, poor maintenance

Optical Scan
automated voting

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
  • 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.
contrast brazil with venezuela u s
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.
how produce trust when introducing automated voting
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.
decisions to make
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.
decisions continued
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.

common disputes
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.)
international observation of automated voting
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.