While many countries still rely on good old paper and pencil for all forms of voting, many others are now starting to look into the possibilities of electronic voting. And when it comes to touchscreens and voting, the technology has evolved by leaps and bounds over the years.
So how exactly is tech changing voting, and what are the advantages – and potential disadvantages – that it brings?
How Touchscreens and Voting Work
It used to be simple. People would go into the voting booth, mark the ballot with a pencil, and leave. Now, technology is increasingly being used in the form of touchscreen voting. In fact, there are many different electronic voting systems currently in use.
Optical scan voting is the most common. This is where paper ballots are marked just like in a traditional vote, but they are then scanned to make them faster to count.
Online voting is not particularly common, but it has been used effectively in some countries, notably Estonia.
Touchscreens are also being used more frequently. With these, there are no paper ballots, and instead people touch the screen to vote. They often print a receipt for confirmation of the vote that can also be used for recounts.
More Countries Are Adopting Electronic Voting
According to this article in Lifewire, many countries are now using the various types of electronic voting.
When it comes to touchscreens and voting, or DRE voting, these are being used in Brazil as well as some areas of the United States.
Optical scan voting is used in some areas of the United States, Canada and South Korea. It was also tried but has now been discontinued in the UK. Other countries like India, Venezuela and Estonia also use forms of electronic voting.
Benefits of Touchscreen Voting
The main reason to switch to touchscreen voting is that it offers a number of benefits:
- Produces faster results because there is no need to wait for votes to be counted
- Reduces the need for recounts
- Helps to reduce the costs
- Always accurate, so no fear of miscounting
- No risk of spoiled ballot papers
Concerns of Touchscreen Voting
However, there are clear disadvantages to combining touchscreens and voting that are putting countries off adopting the systems.
The big worry concerns hacking and malware. Electoral fraud is a real concern, and there are fears that criminals or foreign governments could directly distort voting by somehow hacking into the systems.
There are also concerns that it could lead voters to change their voting behaviour, as suggested in this article. Online disinhibition could influence how people vote, which is an area that deserves further research.
Internet voting poses even greater security problems, but some countries are experimenting with it. Estonia has found solutions to make it more secure, such as allowing the voter to check at any time whether their vote was registered correctly.
Will Electronic Voting Take Over?
It’s fair to say that there is a long way to go before touchscreens and voting become commonplace. In the UK, there is certainly no rush, and it’s hard to see how it will become standard anytime soon.
However, technology will keep improving, and it’s certainly likely that we’ll see more touchscreen voting in years to come.