Automated voting: A world perspective

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pcos
Some countries that had used an automated election system similar to the one that the Commission on Elections bought from Smartmatic have reverted back to manual tallying and counting of votes.

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Among these countries are Germany, Switzerland and Ireland.

In 2009, Germany’s Federal Supreme Court (SC) ruled against the automated election system because the use of electronic voting machines is contrary to the democratic and public character that elections must have.

The German Supreme Court also noted the electronic system’s flaws similar to those that Filipino experts have been warning the Comelec and the public about.

The biggest complaint against electronic ballot casting, reading and counting systems is their lack of transparency.

Nobody sees how the machines are reading each ballot. Then the machines report results that no one can verify.

Like the PCOS machines bought by the Philippine government, the machines in Germany did not print our receipts containing what the voter wrote down on his or her ballot.

Experts from CenPEG, AEStch and other institutions have been repeating that the problem in Philippine elections is not in the manual voting and the counting and tabulation that the Comelec officials, representatives of all parties, people from accredited watchdogs and the media can witness on blackboards or whiteboards.

The cheating is in the transmission of results and the fraudulent canvass.

With the midterm election tomorrow only hours away, the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) remain questionable to critics and election watchdogs.

Problems of the legality of using these machines as well as the accuracy and the possibility of “wholesale cheating” are just some issues raised by groups such as Automatic Election System (AES) Watch.

The practice of “electronic voting system” or facilitating the elections using machines to read and count votes was used only once before in the 2010 election.

While many countries have efficiently implemented this method, the Philippine voting system still seems a little shaky getting a low score of 8.33 in the “electoral process and pluralism” category of the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), an independent research and analysis branch of the Economist magazine based in London.

India, which like us is called a “flawed democracy,” as rated by the EIU, uses electronic voting. They have an electorate of 714 million yet their automated voting system is trusted, although results would come out longer than the “two-day” promise of the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

Many parts of the he United States have also effectively implemented the electronic voting system that is transparent and verifiable. Some of the the states and counties in the US still use manual systems.

There are 21 countries using electronic voting.

In Belgium, electronic voting began in 1991. Gradually, it was used for general and municipal election, fully establishing this system in 1999. They use two systems known as the Jites and Digivote, which is described as “indirect recording electronic voting systems.”

In France, not only do they use remote electronic voting but touch screen electronic voting over the Internet. It is no surprise that European countries are more advanced when it comes to digitalized voting.

But countries like Germany, which is fully democratic according to EIU’s findings, began having problems with the electronic voting system, especially in its “lack of transparency” and “public distrust of the system.” As mentioned in the beginning of this article, the German Federal Supreme Court rejected the system.

Germany’s “electoral process and pluralism” score is close to the Philippines at 8.38, which could be one reason why both countries experience problems with the system. They started using this system in 2005, two years before the Philippine national election was digitalized in 2007.

Since 1999, parts of India have been using electronic voting machines (EVM) and it effectively scores high in the EIU “electoral process and pluralism” category with a 9.58.
Electronic voting in India first started in 1982, but was ruled as against the law by the Supreme Court. Amendments were made in their Representation of Peoples Act to legalize elections using EVMs. A less controversial and more transparemt system has been used in the whole country since 2003.

In the US, online voting started in 1996, efficiently making this available a week before their elections through a secure website. Depending on which state, the country uses four voting machines: an optical scan ballot, a voter verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) or a voter verified paper ballot, a direct recording electronic (DRE) voting machine, and the lever machine which is used in New York State and is considered one of the first and oldest type of voting machines used in elections.

Their Help America Vote Act in 2008 enabled different states to replace their old lever and punch card machines with optical scan or electronic machines. Eighty-nine percent of municipalities use these machines while less than 7 percent still use old-fashioned lever machines and paper ballots.

Unlike the system sold by Smartmatic to the Comelec however, the various US systems are more transparent and leave a paper trail and means of verification.

In Russia, it was the decree by the President of the Russian Federation to create and establish a State Automated System Elections, which was issued on August 23, 1994.

From then on, progressive developments of new Russian election technologies matched with a step-by-step implementation of a new electronic system began. They began implementing the system in 1995 at the elections of deputies to the Russian State.

There are 105 million voters in Russia, with 90,000 voting centers set up during the elections. It is reported that over one million take part in the organization and conduction of elections. Although this might post problems associated with conducting transparent democratic elections, not to mention financial costs, their use of modern technology has been utilized to its full potential.

The vision of an untainted election cost the Filipinos $160 million in investment.

Commission on Elections Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. claims that his agency is “99.9999999 percent ready, just like the PCOS machines, they are not 100 percent accurate,” but close to it nonetheless.

Our current situation is still grim at the moment.

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