E-Voting

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Introduction

The administration of election in Nigeria is intimidating in its demand. There is the logistics nightmare under condition of appalling infrastructure which imperils the distribution of electoral materials. Then there is training of electoral personnel who run into several thousands, the huge cost of funding of the exercise and the ethical challenges of election management. Now that elections are almost impossible without the use of information and communication technology (ICT) even in countries with poor electricity supply the tasks involved are only better imagined (Jega, 2011).

Electronic voting systems for electorates have been in use since the 1960s when punched card systems debuted (Wikipedia, 2011). Their first wide spread use was in the USA where 7 counties switched to this method for the 1964 presidential election. The newer optical scan voting systems allow a computer to count a voter's mark on a ballot. DRE voting machines which collect and tabulate votes in a single machine are used by all voters in all elections in Brazil and India, and also on a large scale in the Venezuela and the United States. They have been used on a large scale in the Netherlands but have been decommissioned after public concerns. Internet voting systems have gained popularity and have been used for government elections and referendums in the United Kingdom, Estonia and Switzerland as well as municipal elections in Canada and party primary elections in the United States and France (Wikipedia, 2011). There are also hybrid systems that include an electronic ballot marking device (usually a touch screen system similar to a DRE) or other assistive technology to print a voter verified paper audit trail, and then use a separate machine for electronic tabulation.

Proponents of online voting have argued that it could increase voter turnout. However, this is by no means certain. Only a minority of the UK population has home internet access (35%), and many of those who do not vote are unlikely to have ready access to computers (Technology, 2001). In addition, it could reduce expenses involved in setting up and staffing poll sites. However, new voting arrangements would, at least at first, be in addition to existing systems. This would entail large additional costs and several years of government investment.

As such, ICT and election exercise are married in the hope that it will serve as the saviour of the laborious procedures of elections. The dramatic impact of the internet has led to discussion of e-democracy and online voting. Some early enthusiasts declared that the internet could replace representative democracy, enabling everyone to vote on everything and anything at the push of a button. Such visions oversimplified the democratic process. Others have argued that e-voting could reduce costs and increase turnout by making voting more convenient.

Internet voting can use remote locations (voting from any Internet capable computer) or can use traditional polling locations with voting booths consisting of Internet connected voting systems. Corporations and organizations routinely use Internet voting to elect officers and Board members and for other proxy elections. Internet voting systems have been used privately in many modern nations and publicly in the United States, the UK, Switzerland and Estonia. In Switzerland, where it is already an established part of local referendums, voters get their passwords to access the ballot through the postal service. Most voters in Estonia can cast their vote in local and parliamentary elections, if they want to, via the Internet, as most of those on the electoral roll have access to an e-voting system, the largest run by any European Union country. It has been made possible because most Estonians carry a national identity card equipped with a computer-readable microchip and it is these cards which they use to get access to the online ballot. All a voter needs is a computer, an...
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