Arguments in Favor

Elections are unique.  They change the fate of nations, influence participation and activism in politics, and deeply affect the lives and attitudes of citizens.  Electrons demonstrate a clear importance for our society- so not only must election systems work, the people must believe that they work.

Accordingly, ethical concerns have become one of the most central elements of the debate surrounding electronic voting.  At times, it seems even that the ethics are the most important factor of discussion- influencing technical concerns, et cetera.  Despite concerns about Electronic Voting Machines, however, companies continue to develop them and countries continue to adopt them at amazing speed.  There must be a large incentive to undertake such risk.  We must ask: What are the benefits of electronic voting?

Electronic voting most directly affects two large parties: the voters, and the government.  Theoretically, in order for electronic voting to be instituted, there must be a significant advantage (greater than the costs) to one or both of these groups.  Ideally, voters gain a better voting experience at the polls, are more confident that their vote will be correctly counted, and are able to vote more easily and efficiently.  The government is potentially able to increase voter turnout, reduce costs, increase voter confidence, renew interest in the political system (and voting), and ensure the most democratic process possible.                         

One of the significant benefits of this new system is the possibility for increased efficiency.  With Electronic Voting Machines voters can submit their votes, and be reasonably confiedent that their vote will count (namely avoiding the “hanging chad” problem that handicapped the 2000 presidential elections in the United States).  New Electronic Voting Machines can also stop voters from common election faults, such as picking too many or no candidates, also thereby increasing the general effectiveness of voting.

Electronic voting via email also holds the possibility of increasing the ease of voting for citizens who are otherwise geographically isolated from election centers.  Lorrie Faith Cranor, currently an Associate Research Professor in Computer Science and Engineering & Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University, explained in Crossroads in 1996 that, “Eventually electronic voting may be a viable solution to increasing voter participation in governmental elections.” This potential to increase voter participation, ether from increased accessibility, decreased cost, decreased difficulty, or any other method clearly has its benefits to the larger community.

Electronic voting also has the ability to reduce fraud, by eliminating the opportunity for ballot tampering.  However, if paper ballots are printed out as a backup in case of a recount necessity, this threat remains.  Michael Shamos of Carnegie Mellon University, who is in favor of electronic voting but ardently against paper machines, argues that “Paper voting records have shown themselves for the past 250 years to be horribly insecure and easy to manipulate.  In practice they have so many flaws that they are as bad as punched-card voting at its worst.” But if paper ballots are eliminated, so is the possibility to distort them as a means of election deception.  However, some countries (such as Brazil) have moved in favor of integrating paper printouts into the voting process.

One thing to consider is that the success of electronic voting rests directly in the ability of the Electronic Voting Machines to function in the way the voting district needs and prefers.  Some of the greatest features of Electronic Voting Machines may still be to come with developments in software and mechanical functionality, especially those that would ensure accuracy, privacy and verifiability.

© Gloria Lin and Nicole Espinoza 2007

Stanford University

Electronic Voting


Arguments in Favor

Arguments Against

Case Studies

    The United States



Further Information

Source: Anonymous/ Wikipedia Creative Commons