Introduction 

The world’s democratic history began with in-person voting, as eligible citizens would meet to exclaim “yay” or “nay” for a candidate. On-site voting continues to thrive in government elections and member-based organization contests.

One of the most common voting methods in association elections, on-site voting empowers members to choose the procedure they want to use. Practically speaking, on-site elections enhance the voting experience because it reduces tabulation time, allow members to obtain guidance, and, in some cases, can be convenient. While a tried and true approach, in-person voting has its drawbacks, such as lack of accessibility, inadequate time to get to the polls, space and staffing issues, and low voter turnout.

Electronic Voting Machine ( EVM ): 

An electronic voting machine (EVM) is a portable instrument to conduct elections to the parliament, legislature, and local bodies like panchayats and municipalities.

EVM is a microcontroller-based instrument designed to modernize the election procedure there is no scope for invalid votes and total secrecy of voting data is maintained and it also facilitates quick and accurate counting. The voting data recorded in EVMs can be retained for years and can be extracted if necessary.

The Electronic Voting Machine is a reliable system to conduct elections where one person has to be elected out of many candidates. The EVM is designed for a single post and a single vote.

Electronic Voting and Counting 

Electronic voting and counting refer to the use of electronic technologies that assist or automate the voting and/or counting processes. In electronic voting, often called “e-voting,” voters use an electronic device to make and record their ballot choices. Choices are recorded on the machine itself or the machine produces a token on which the choices are recorded, such as a magnetic card or a printout of the ballot choice. Electronic voting systems include electronic voting machines (EVMs) placed in polling stations, SMS voting, and Internet voting. In electronic counting, part or all of the tabulation of results is automated. E-voting systems can be remote or non-remote, referring to whether the voters’ ballot choices are transmitted to a central location (e.g. Internet or SMS voting) or recorded on a local medium (such as the EVM or a printed ballot). Systems will also be supervised or unsupervised, which relates to whether election staff is present to manage the voting process (e.g., if voting is done in a polling station) or not (such as Internet voting). The most common e-voting systems involve non-remote EVMs used in the supervised environment of the polling station. Many key decisions must be reached in adopting, designing, implementing, and overseeing an e-voting system. These considerations are laid out in detail at www.evotingguide.com.

Why does e-voting matter?

Electronic voting and counting may offer a range of benefits to the conduct and administration of elections when strategically employed, but new technologies also present new challenges. Decision-making processes about all aspects of the use of technologies in elections should be transparent and consultative. If a decision to procure new technologies is reached, standards relating to transparent and competitive procurement should be upheld. Transparency in testing and certifying e-voting systems promotes credibility among election stakeholders such as political parties, the media, and civil society. E-voting technologies also introduce new and important stakeholder groups to the electoral process who are responsible for providing, checking, or overseeing e-voting technologies, including technology vendors, academia, and IT experts. Election results should be verifiable and auditable to provide sufficient means for voters and stakeholders to verify that votes have been accurately recorded. Independent testing and certification of electronic voting and counting systems are essential tools that EMBs should use to guarantee the accuracy, security, and reliability of e-voting systems. The “source code” – in some sense, the description of the underlying software system – should be made available. In 2013, Estonia’s Electronic Voting Committee released the entire source code of its voting server software. This step gave citizens a chance to understand their e-voting system more fully – although requiring technical knowledge to do so – but perhaps even more importantly, it opened the door for interested programmers to help identify bugs in the system, strengthen its security and boost its security confidence in its capacities.

Citizens must be aware of any changes to the election-day process and voting procedures well in advance of election day, especially in cases in which new and unfamiliar technology is introduced into the process. Citizens can easily lose faith in the integrity of the electoral process if they are not well-informed about or have confidence in technologies used in voting and counting. With access to information about electronic voting and counting, stakeholders can assess the integrity of the procurement of technologies, the recording of votes, and the tabulation of election results. With access to data about electronic voting and counting technologies, including the underlying source code, citizens, political parties, election observers, and other stakeholders can help improve electronic voting and counting technologies and promote confidence in their use.

Example e-voting data

Data related to electronic voting and counting includes all information about the procurement of electronic voting and counting technologies. Additionally, data includes voter education information about how the voting and counting technologies work and how to use the technologies. Details of the technologies selected and associated source codes should also be made available for public inspection. Additionally, election results data collected, consolidated, or tabulated by electronic technologies is important, in addition to any information from audits.

Election Results 

Election results reflect the outcome and level of participation in electoral contests. They can also provide the basis for a runoff election, depending on the results and the electoral system. Election results are tabulated based on vote counts from the polling station level. Depending on the electoral system and the type of election, polling station results are then sent to intermediate tabulation centers and then to a central tabulation center. The election management body (EMB) is responsible for tabulating election results and determining the winner of electoral contests. The EMB should publish all election results in a complete and timely manner, including at the most granular (i.e., polling station) level.

Voter turnout is another type of election result. It represents the percentage of persons eligible to vote who cast ballots in an election. Voter turnout is specifically defined as the percent of registered voters who participate in an election and is usually calculated using signatures of voters from polling station-level voters lists. Voting Age Population (VAP) turnout refers to the percent of the voting age population who cast ballots, including those who are not registered to vote or are otherwise ineligible to vote. For recent presidential and parliamentary elections, the election commissions in both Georgia (2012 and 2013) and Ukraine (2014) announced turnout results at specific times throughout election day (e.g, 12:00 pm and 3:00 pm), as well as at the end of voting. Likewise, the Instance Supérieure Independent pour les Elections (ISIE), Tunisia’s election commission, released voter turnout throughout election day for the 2014 presidential and parliamentary polls.

In some countries, election outcomes may be checked through vote audits or recounts in certain circumstances. Vote audits involve examining aspects of the process used to collect and count votes to determine whether there were any significant problems. The findings of an audit may trigger a ballot recount to confirm the accuracy of the results. In the Philippines, the election commission introduced a “random manual audit” for the 2010 elections to address concerns about the accuracy of their electronic voting machines. Under their system, randomly-selected precincts in every congressional district had their voting materials examined and ballots counted manually for comparison with initial results. In Afghanistan, faced with highly disputed results from the 2014 presidential runoff, the election commission undertook an audit of every ballot box. If certain conditions were found to exist for a ballot box, its contents were then recounted.

Other circumstances might also trigger recounts. Partial or full recounts can be called when an election has been closed, or when someone has a reason to believe that the first count has not been conducted correctly. The specific conditions that trigger a recount, how it is done, and who conducts it are usually specified in the electoral law and vary from country to country. For instance, in Tunisia, a recount is triggered in a polling station if the number of ballots does not equal the number of signatures on the voters’ list during the counting process. In Uganda, the 2005 Parliamentary Elections Act1 dictates a full recount if the candidates with the highest number of votes have the same number of votes, or if the number of votes separating the top candidates is less than fifty.

Why do election results matter? 

The results of the elections determine the winners of electoral contests. They are the basis for allocating the number of seats in many electoral systems. Ultimately, election results determine who will represent the voters. Publicly posting election results both at the location where ballots are cast and initially counted (e.g., polling stations) and at each point where they are consolidated (e.g., ward, district, regional/provincial, and national results consolidation centers) increase the transparency and accountability of the tabulation process. The timely publication of election results can immensely increase public confidence in the process. When election results are published openly and transparently, candidates, civic organizations, and media can verify or dismiss the official results with their observation findings. Observers can make sure that the will of the voters was respected by comparing election results to their observation findings. In Mexico, the 2014 General Law on Electoral Institutions and Procedures requires releasing polling station results to party agents, nonpartisan observers, and media. The framework allows for independent verification of election results by citizen groups and the media.

Voter turnout, depending on the political context, can shed light on the voting population’s engagement or interest in the political process. It is considered in some cases an indicator of the credibility of the electoral process. Many variables affect turnout, including socio-economic, political, and institutional factors in addition to electoral violence or the threat of electoral violence and the competitiveness of the election. With access to voter turnout data, citizen observer groups, EMBs, and political parties and candidates can generate and evaluate participation information. Participation information can reveal patterns or trends in voting by gender, region, age, and other factors that can impact the credibility of an election or inform future voter education or political party campaigns, for example.

As with the initial counting and tabulation process, information about vote audits and recounts, if applicable, is critical to public confidence in an election. Data about the audit and/or recount justification and methodology, as well as any changes to election results, should be made openly available. This includes what polling stations are to be audited and/or recounted, the methodology used to select those stations, the actual audit and/or recount forms, polling station-level audit and/or recount outcomes, and differences for individual contestants.

Example election results data 

Election results data consists of general information about the election, such as country name, country code, year, election type, date of the election, and name of the contested office. Election results data containing the total number of voters registered, the totals for each contestant, spoilt ballots, invalid votes, and the number of those participating should be released at the lowest level at which votes are cast and counted, usually at the polling station level. To maximize transparency, results should also be published at each stage where they are compiled and scrutinized (e.g., ward, district, regional/provincial and national results tabulation, centers). Election results data also includes information specifying the type of results (provisional or final/certified results), the allocation of seats (if applicable), and when the results data were, last updated. If an audit and/or recount has taken place, data should include information on the methodology, how ballot boxes or polling stations were selected, resultant changes to results, and subsequent changes to overall electoral outcomes. The election commission of the Philippines (COMELEC) releases a range of data relating to their random manual audit process. For the 2013 elections, this included information about vote count differences among the candidate at the regional level.

Both South Africa and Australia have unique systems for the public release of results. In the 2014 elections, the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) scanned and captured results at the polling stations, and the results were independently audited at the municipal electoral offices, where they are also made available to the party representatives. The results information was then displayed on boards at the national and provincial results centers and made available on the Election Commission’s website as a bulk download in a machine-readable format. Australia has a special election media feed that provides real-time election information and results to any media organization or an interested person anywhere in than e world over a File Transfer Protocol (FTP).

The Pros of On-Site Voting 

  •  The Choice of Voting Method
    Human beings inherently value the opportunity to choose, so giving members the ability to select a voting method can leave them feeling empowered. As an added benefit, election management agencies can provide multiple options for these contests. Since on-site elections often occur during annual meetings, members can have a choice of voting online by mobile device or on a paper ballot in a designated polling space.
    For example, the American Association for Justice held on-site elections at their annual meeting. After candidates gave speeches, members had the option of voting using the aforementioned features.
  • Quick Tabulation Turnaround
    We live in the instant gratification era where anyone can click a button and receive an immediate answer, so it may be beneficial to incorporate this instantaneous practice into member-based organization elections. When using online on-site voting, wait times are decreased and elected officials can be announced on the same day. Utilizing other voting methods, such as paper ballots, may take a bit longer as they require manual tabulation.
  • Assistance
    It’s not unusual for questions to arise during an on-site election, especially if members are voting via a digital device. If that’s the case, experts from the election management agency can be on hand to offer guidance. Similarly, if a voter has a question about a paper ballot or security and privacy, an election specialist can provide support and alleviate any concerns.
  • Convenience 
    For organizations with members located near one another be a convenient method. For instance, members of a homeowner’s association can take a short walk over to a communal building to cast their ballot. Similarly, apartment complex renters can vote in the lobby as they enter or exit the building.

The Cons of On-Site Voting 

  • Inaccessible 
    Accessibility can be an issue if members of an organization are spread out across the country. The association may not be able to convene all of its chapters in a centralized location, and it may prove difficult and costly to set up polling spaces in various states or counties. For those with such a large member base, alternative voting methods such as online, mail, or phone, are optimal.
    Smaller organizations may run into different obstacles. While on-site elections may be easier to manage, some members may be unable to physically make it to the meeting due to lack of transportation. As a result, other approaches may be necessary to increase participation.
    A third accessibility problem occurs when a member-based group fails to communicate clearly with its members. If you can’t properly promote and disseminate election information, members may not know what or who they’re voting for or, worse, the date of the contest.
  • Time Consuming 
    Generally, people join homeowner’s associations, cooperatives, unions, and other organizations in addition to their jobs and family obligations. As evidenced by this breakdown from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, an arm of the U.S. Department of Labor, people lead busy lives, leaving them little time for anything unrelated to work or parenting. As a result, it can be tough to attend the meeting and cast a ballot. To make it more convenient and less time-consuming, organizations can turn to alternatives such as online voting.
  • Low Voter Turnout 
    Gathering all members into one room at a specific time can be a tough feat, and lack of accessibility and time contribute to low voter turnout. If an association wants to continue the tradition of on-site voting, it can add other voting options for members to choose from, so some can participate from the comfort of their own homes in just a few seconds.
  • Space homes Staffing 
    In-person voting requires a dedicated polling place and staff to oversee the election. This can lead to additional costs if an organization must rent adequate polling space or hire staff to run the election.

Conclusion

The Electronic Voting method is indeed the better choice for the new millennium as it has several associated benefits and due to the disadvantages of On-Site Voting.

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