Digital technology in elections: Efficiency versus credibility?

Briefing 10-09-2018

Digital technology brings greater efficiency in many walks of life, and elections are no exception. Online databases hugely facilitate the task of creating and managing accurate and up-to-date electoral rolls. In less developed countries, whose citizens often lack reliable identity documents, biometric technology can help to identify voters, thus preventing fraud in the form of multiple voting. However, for some aspects of election management, digitalisation is more controversial. Electronic voting machines count votes quickly and accurately. First used in the United States, they have spread to several Latin American and Asian countries. However, the intangible nature of digital processes makes detecting tampering more difficult; as a result, most European countries are sticking to tried-and-trusted conventional paper ballots. Even more controversial is the idea of internet voting. On the one hand, allowing citizens the convenience of casting their vote online without the need to visit polling stations could help to reverse a worrying decline in voter turnout across the world. On the other hand, current technology does not allow internet voting systems to be fully secured against hackers, a major concern given the growing sophistication of cyber-attacks (for example, from Russia). To date, only Estonia gives all voters the option of online voting in national elections.