Electronic Voting Machines
Electronic voting machines are the technologies that have been developed to help with the process of electronic voting. The latter, also referred to as e-voting, is a process of elections with the usage of the electronic techniques that provide for casting and counting of votes to avoid any irregularities. Nevertheless, an electronic voting machine includes the mishmash of electrochemical, mechanical, or automatic systems that encompass its software, firmware, as well as any prerequisite certification to sequence, regulate, and back the tools that will be applied to vote casting and counting. Moreover, these systems delineate polls, present and interpret election outcomes, generate, sustain and audit trajectory data. Electronic machines are programmed in such a way that they can avail immediate feedback to electors such as a spoilt vote as a result of over-voting or under-voting. There are different voting devices, and each of them has varying levels of accuracy, efficiency, security and relevance. The purpose of the current paper is to describe the diverse types of electronic voting machines, explain how they operate, who makes them, identify where these mechanisms have been used, and evaluate how secure they are.
Types of Electronic Voting Machines
There are many electronic voting machines, some of which include the following;
Punch-Card Voting Systems
In this voting system, cards are provided for the electors to punch holes next to the contestant of their choice. After the electors have punched the ballot cards, they are then requited either to drop the latter in the ballot box or to feed the bulletin into the electronic vote-tabularizing machine at the polling station. Additionally, there are two punch-card voting systems, namely Votomatic and Datavote ones. The former has locations on the ballot cards where the voters make holes. In the place of the gap, a distinct number is printed then. On the other hand, in the Datavote system, the name of the chosen candidate is written next to the hole on the bulletin. Punch-card voting was used in Florida in the 2000 presidential elections.
Optical Scan Voting Systems
The optical scan systems utilize an optical scanner to declaim and total the marked election papers. Optical scanners encompass the following three systems: Mark-Sense System is the first one whereby optical marks made by electors with a granite pencil can be recognized by a scanner; the second one is the Electronic Ballot Markers (EBM) - these machines fill out optical scan ballots and record the votes on the bulletin. EBMs have the capability to help the physically challenged persons to fill in the paper ballots and also enable audial interfaces. The last system is the digital pen, which uses digital paper as the pen has a little camera that can spot the place, which the voter marks. The bulletin are then gathered at the polling station and the digital pen must be returned to the team responsible for holding elections for tabularization purposes.
The optical systems discussed above combine ballot papers and electronic devices so that the actual bulletins can be kept to serve as the evidence of electors' intent. For this reasons, the optical systems enable votes to be recounted manually in case of any eventuality.
Internet voting describes utilization of the Internet to cast votes. Online elections take two forms, namely the remote and the polling site Internet voting (kiosk voting). Therefore, these two types depend on whether the voting is held in controlled or uncontrolled surroundings. The remote online voting does not require from voters to go to the polling station, nor do they need physical supervision of electoral officials as they can elect their candidate from wherever they are, be it at home, work, hospital, etc. The votes are then transferred via the Internet. On the other hand, the polling site voting form involves electors casting their votes by means of client machines that are present in the constituency or in public places that are controlled by the government. Thus, the Internet voting is convenient and can be easily accessed.
Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) Systems
DREs are also known as the electronic voting machines. These systems use a keyboard a touch screen, mouse, pen or any other electrical ploy to enable an elector to record his/her vote automatically. The voters just need to push buttons that are next to their preferred candidates or indicate them on the touch screen. DREs are only used in supervised non-remote polling stations. Moreover, these systems record the voters’ selections and automatically store their choices in the machine. The captured votes are then transmitted online or can be printed manually displaying the results of elections. The DREs were widely implemented in Brazil in the 1996 general elections as well as in the U.S 2000 general election. Additionally, DREs have also been introduced in the Netherlands, Germany, etc.
Hence, electronic voting machines have been embraced around the world and are becoming more popular. Among the nations that have been using e-voting there are the United States of America, Brazil, Norway, Germany, Romania, Italy, Switzerland, Belgium, France, Venezuela, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, etc.
The above-discussed electronic voting machines are produced and distributed by various companies. The top manufacturers include Premier Election Solutions (previously famous as Diebold Election Systems), Election Systems and Software (ES&S) Companies (both organizations are owned by brothers who are staunch democrats), Hart InterCivic, and Sequoia Voting Systems.
Even though the electronic voting machines are safe and do not have a lot of election irregularities, the Internet systems can be easily hacked and then the election results will not be so transparent. Contestants would want to do anything to ensure that they win the election, so they can hire hackers to disrupt the systems and probably steal votes, hence, not holding fair and just elections. For this reason, some people still prefer the paper balloting elections.
The electronic voting comprises of various web activities such as data transmission to fully support the online voting exercise, automation services than encompass the voter cataloging and confirmation, secret ballot input, division totaling, vote data decryption and communication to servers, vote amalgamation, tabularization, and supervision of the elections. The major types of e-voting machines include the Direct Recording Electronic Systems, the Punch-Card Voting Systems, the Optical Scan Systems, and the Internet Voting (the electronic voting that is physically administered by governmental agencies or the independent electoral bodies, and the remote e-voting on the web (I-voting) whereby electors cast their votes at their homes, workplaces, etc., without going to polling stations). Four companies are the key manufacturers of the machines, specifically Premier Election Solutions, ES&S, Hart Inter Civic and Sequoia Voting Systems. Thus, the electronic voting has been implemented in the USA, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Belgium and other states.