A look at electronic voting systems from around the world
Matei Vasile / 2015-05-14

In this series of articles we will take a look at the issue of electronic voting. This first article is about the types of electronic voting systems in general and about the types of electronic voting systems in use around the world.

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1. Terminology

Before going into any detail about the various methods of electronic voting, we need to establish the terminology. This needs to be done because many people use electronic voting as an umbrella term for all the various voting methods that have an electronic component of any kind. In reality, four main methods of voting that involve at least some steps that are accomplished through electronic means can be identified. Various implementations of each method can be encountered in practice, but the main methods are:

Electronic counting: in this type of voting, only the counting of the cast ballots is done using an electronic system. Everything else is done through traditional means, i.e. people going into voting booths with paper ballots and marking their choices on the ballot which they then cast in the ballot box.

Paper-based electronic voting machines: in this type of voting, the generation of the ballot is done using an electronic system. This means that the voter goes into the voting booth where he finds an electronic voting machine. There, he uses the machine to make his choice and the machine creates a ballot marked accordingly, then he takes the ballot and casts it into the ballot box. The ballot box could, theoretically, be just a classic ballot box that holds the ballots until they are tabulated traditionally, by humans. However, usually taking the trouble of generating the ballot using a voting machine is done in order to create easily machine-readable ballots which are then scanned and have the votes tabulated automatically by a different machine, the paper ballot being kept for verification purposes.

Direct-recording electronic (DRE) voting machines: this type of voting is the next iteration over the previous method. In this type of voting, the voter goes into the voting booth where he finds a voting machine, like in the previous case. However, in the case of DRE machines, the voter uses the machine to make his choice and the machine tabulates the vote electronically. No paper ballot is generated and there is no physical ballot box anymore. For verification purposes, DRE machines can have a voter verification paper audit trail (VVPAT) system implemented. Although multiple methods of implementing a VVPAT system exist, all revolve around printing and storing the voter choice on paper so that recounts can be performed using the paper-printed ballots if the electronically stored results raise any questions.

The thing to note here is that a DRE system with VVPAT is functionally identical with a paper-based system with electronic counting because they both provide electronic counting with a paper-based audit trail.

Remote online/Internet voting: in this type of voting, the voter does not have to go into the voting booth in order to make his choice. He can make his choice using any device that can connect over a public network to an online voting system that receives the voter's choice and tabulates the vote electronically.


2. Electronic voting systems from around the world

Let's look at what are, arguably, the most relevant examples of countries that have considered, have used or are currently using various electronic voting systems:

2.1. Australia

Australia has run a number of electronic voting trials, the first of which was in October 2001, during the Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly elections. A paper-based electronic voting system was used, with an optical scanning system used for tabulating the results. 8.3% of all counted votes were cast using the electronic system.

At the federal level, Australia has finally rejected electronic voting in 2014.

However, at the regional level, in New South Wales, voting machines have been used for enabling blind and visually impaired people to vote independently since 2007. Moreover, since 2010 New South Wales took a step further and implemented the iVote Internet voting system.

2.2. Belgium

Belgium has started introducing electronic voting since 1991. The implementation of electronic voting reached 44% coverage in 1999 and stayed at that level ever since.

The system used in Belgium until 2006 was similar to a paper-based electronic voting system matched with an automatic vote tabulation system. The difference was that the voting machines used a card with a magnetic strip and the choice selected by the voter is stored by the voting machine on the card's magnetic strip. This was done to simplify the implementation of the vote tabulation process. In 2010, a new system has begun to be used. The new system prints the choice of the voter on a paper ballot and the ballot is then scanned by a electronic counting system. This was done so that the voter can see that the choice he selected is what has been inscribed on the ballot by the voting machine, which is something that was not possible using the magnetic strip cards of the old system.

2.3. Brazil

Brazil is one of just 3 countries that use an electronic voting system on a national level. The system is based on DRE voting machines and it has been in use since 1996. In 2012, a biometric identification system has been added to the voting machines. The system does not have VVPAT. In 2009 a law was adopted mandating the implementation of a VVPAT system but in 2011 the Brazilian Supreme Court granted an injunction to suspend the implementation of the VVPAT system.

2.4. Canada

Canada does not have electronic voting on a national level. Elections Canada, the Canadian electoral authority has produced, in 2010, a comparative study of the use of electronic voting in Europe and North America. The study was rather ambivalent towards electronic voting.

At the local level, various electronic voting systems have been tested and are still in use. At the regional level, some regions even created legislation to allow the use of electronic voting.

2.5. Estonia

Estonia is the second of the 3 countries that use an electronic voting system on a national level and the only one to use an Internet voting system on a national level. In 2005 Estonia ran the first trial, for the local elections, in which Internet voting was used throughout the country. This was a world-first. In 2007, they ran the first national elections using their Internet voting system, which was another world premiere.

2.6. Finland

Finland ran an electronic voting trial in 2008 using DRE voting machines without VVPAT for the local elections in 3 cities. 232 voters encountered an usability flow resulting in their votes not being counted. As a result, the Supreme Administrative Court of Finland ordered the repeat of the the elections.

2.7. France

France uses remote Internet voting only for its citizens living abroad. Attempts were made to introduce more widespread electronic voting but they were met with firm opposition and did not materialize.

2.8. Germany

Germany used DRE voting machines without VVPAT from 1999 until 2008. In 2009, the German Constitutional Court ruled them unconstitutional, thus putting an end to electronic voting in Germany.

2.9. India

India is the third and final country using an electronic voting system on a national level. Like Brazil, India uses DRE voting machines. Also like Brazil, the voting machines used in Indian elections did not have VVPAT. However, in India, the Indian Electoral Commission decided the introduction of a VVPAT system after issues were raised by the Dehli High Court and the Indian Supreme Court. At the moment of this writing, the implementation of the VVPAT system is still in trial phase with very limited deployment.

In 2011, India also tested a remote Internet voting system in Gujarat.

2.10. Ireland

Ireland ran a trial using electronic voting machines witout a paper audit trail in 2002. Concerns were raised immediately, in 2009 the decision was made to scrap the electronic voting system and in 2010 the decision was made to dispose of the existing voting machines. This experiment had a cost of 54 million EUR.

2.11. Netherlands

The Netherlands have used electronic voting for about 20 years until the scandal surrounding voting machines used in the 2006 general elections. As a result of that, the Dutch have stopped using electronic voting in 2007. The electronic voting system in use at that time was based on DRE voting machines without VVPAT.

2.12. Norway

Norway has ran a series of trials using a remote Internet voting system starting from 2008. However, in 2014, Norway decided to put an end to the electronic voting experiments.

2.13. Sweden

Sweden has not implemented an electronic voting system but the subject of electronic voting has been debated since more than a decade ago.

2.14. Switzerland

Switzerland has been started electronic voting trials in 2004. It began only in the cantons of Geneva (2004), Neuchâtel (2005) and Zurich (2005). Using this as a starting point, the trials have been expanded constantly from 2008 onwards. An important milestone was reached in 2014 when the legislation was updated to better accommodate electronic voting.

In 2008 remote Internet voting has been implemented for the first time only for Swiss citizen living abroad. Since 2014, every Swiss citizen living abroad can vote through remote Internet voting.

2.15. UK

A number of electronic voting trials have been run in the UK using a mix of paper-based electronic voting machines with electronic counting, DRE voting machines and remote Internet voting, depending on the electoral college. After the scathing reports following the 2007 England and Scotland elections and the 2008 London elections using various electronic voting systems, it seemed that the idea of electronic voting had been abandoned. However, in 2012, at the London mayoral and Scottish local elections, an electronic counting system has been used again. The cost of using the electronic counting system in 2008: 1.5 million GBP more than counting by hand.

2.16. US

When it comes to electronic voting, the US represents a mosaic of various systems and implementations. The first use of electronic voting in the US was the 2000 Arizona Democratic presidential primary. From that point onwards, multiple systems have been used, ranging from optical scan systems, which can be as simple as just an electronic counting system, through the infamous Diebold machines which are direct-recording electronic voting machines and up to various Internet voting systems that have been trialled and/or implemented with various degrees of success. We will not go into further detail about electronic voting in the US because the subject is too vast to tackle in this article.

Taking all of this into account, let's take a look at some statistics:



Considered / Used in the past

Trials /

Partial use

Universal use


Paper-based electronic voting machines + electronic counting or DRE with VVPAT


1 (6.25%)


1 (6.25%)

DRE without VVPAT

4 (25%)


2 (12.5%)

3 (18.75%)

Remote Internet voting

2 (12.5%)

2 (12.5%)

1 (6.25%)

5 (31.25%)

Mix of multiple systems


4 (25%)


4 (25%)


6 (37.5%)

7 (43.75%)

3 (18.75%)


In the next article in this series we will take a look at the reported problems of the various electronic systems from around the world.