The computer technology that was developed during the 20th century and the early years of the 21st century has evidently changed election administration. Prior to the Revolutionary War, votes were cast not by ballot, but by voice. Before the Revolution, voting took place at local carnivals according to historian and writer Gil Troy.
In 1965, a few years after the punch-card technology was adapted for voting, president Lyndon B. Johnson enacted the Voting Rights Act, and through those decades, paper ballot remained the heart of the voting process.
While traditional election focuses on manual voter registration and vote counting, the modern democratic process, and organization of elections, on the other hand, are more dependent on technology that makes it possible to deliver real-time results. This is vastly different from years ago when calculating votes take days or even weeks. Now, voting is easier than ever from the point of casting to counting through online voting.
It can also be expected that new technologies will continue to change and improve the way elections are conducted throughout the 21st Century.
The ‘Hanging Chad’ Crisis
In November 2000, the “hanging chad” crisis in Florida caused a political earthquake in the presidential election between George W. Bush and Al Gore.
The voting technology deployed by most states around the country is now outdated and unreliable that it is in danger of breaking down at any time, experts say. The extent of decay in America’s electoral infrastructure was exposed in a new report from the Brennan Center, a nonpartisan institute at the New York University School of Law specializing in democracy and justice. The study consulted more than 100 voting specialists in all 50 states and concluded that the country is facing a crisis in the way it conducts elections.
The U.S. has made great strides to improve its election system in the aftermath of the 2000 elections. However, Antonio Mugica, CEO of Smartmatic, a voting technology company, believes that the time to update the existing voting infrastructure has arrived. “Thanks to a considerable effort made by the Federal Government and States across the nation after the passage of HAVA, the U.S. updated its systems. But time has passed, and now the average voting technology in the U.S. is again outdated, raising concerns that it might fail in this upcoming election.”
An Aging Voting System In The US
According to the Brennan Center, the voting equipment being used in different states in the U.S. are now aging; resources are severely impacted by the state of the economy over the past years. According to Smartmatic’s representative survey, 45% of voters who had intended to vote in a past election, but ultimately did not, stated that a lack of time was their primary reason for not voting. Among the reasons are the inconvenience or cumbersome and ‘disillusioned’ voting process.
Mugica also cited countries Belgium and the Philippines who have automated their elections, offering a better voting experience to citizens and accurate results that have withstood the strictest global scrutiny.
Across Africa, biometric voting technologies have been used to help increase citizens’ trust in the result. By incorporating biometrics into the authentication process, authorities have been able to deter one of the most common types of election fraud, voter impersonation.
Online voting is one of the best examples of how technology can make democracy more accessible by giving voters more choices on how they cast their vote. An increase in accessibility could also mean high voter turnout. Estonia has offered online voting for the past 11 years and is now a world reference for election modernization.
Smartmatic recently announced the launch of TIVI, a secure, verifiable online voting solution for governmental elections. This next-generation voting solution is a good fit for the U.S. as this provides the strongest assurance of election integrity of any online voting solution available today.
It is the only online voting solution in the world that allows universal digital verifiability to prove the integrity of the vote, from the point of casting to counting. It also features advanced cryptographic technique and it guarantees voter privacy and vote security.
The newest technology offered by Smartmatic can work with each country to design and implement a system that meets their specific needs. It also ensures that voter privacy is maintained, electoral fraud and manipulation are eliminated, voter coercion is reduced and the overall integrity of the electoral process is improved.
With elections happening almost constantly, election management bodies have an opportunity to engage millions of more people in the democratic process by introducing more modern, convenient and secure choices for voters to have their say.