What are the differences between voting machines and online voting (via the Internet)?

Electronic voting, voting machines, online voting or Internet voting. Elections are often the right time to reflect on the future of political elections in France, in particular to increase the level of turnout. But these terms do not always cover the same thing.

Two-thirds of French people are in favor of online voting. This is what emerges from an Odoxa survey, which was reported by the Public Senate on April 21, 2022. The survey reports that 67% of the sample surveyed (1,005 French people aged 18 or over plus) are for the installation of this device. Even 71% think it would reduce abstention, and even for 58% of respondents, it would encourage them to vote more often.

For those unfamiliar with this method of voting, online voting can be a vague concept. In addition, it can be merged with a different system, electronic voting, which is done through the use of voting machines. However, these are two approaches that have little to do with each other other than the use of technology.

How voting machines work (electronic voting)

Electronic voting is, in form, close to the paper equivalent. It is held at polling stations, which requires you to go there on polling day, except in the case of abstention. Voters must follow the same ritual, with a passage in front of the members of the office in charge of controlling operations, and in a voting booth to choose in peace.

Electronic voting is done on a voting machine, which works independently: it is not connected to the Internet and does not work on a network with other machines. Instead of having a traditional ballot box, the machine itself acts like an electronic ballot box, printing the results on a ticket at the end, all under the supervision of the polling station.

A voting machine, with the side panels unfolded to serve as a voting booth. // Font: Numerama

Thus, voters do not have to take the ballot papers with the names of the candidates or the envelope to enter their choice: they must follow the procedures that appear on the screen and press various buttons. There is even the possibility of choosing the blank ballot for those who refuse or cannot choose.

Above all, electronic voting is legal in France, although the situation has been frozen since 2008: only municipalities that use it before that date still have the right to use it (three models are allowed to operate in France). Electronic voting, due to its particularities, is subject to specific instructions to limit the risk of fraud.

Voting machines are very little used throughout the territory: they are about 1,400 polling stations (with a limit of one machine per office), spread over about sixty municipalities. If these cities are less and less likely to use it, there is still a significant part of the electorate (about 1.4 million people) who use it.

The online voting process (or online voting)

Therefore, online voting, or online voting, is very different. Here you do not vote in a polling station, under the supervision of its members (except when passing through the polling booth), but from home or, why not, on the move or anywhere, with your computer laptop or smartphone, as long as you have an active internet connection.

The principle of online voting is that a voter connects to a website, which will act as an electronic ballot box, to express their choice. Before voting, you should have received all the necessary items to log in. This can be an ID and a password, one sent by mail, the other by SMS or email, to avoid unpleasant surprises.

Online voting
Online voting is done through a website. // Source: Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs

Another difference with electronic voting lies in its legality: Internet voting for political elections is not allowed in France. It was allowed in certain circumstances in the past, to vote in the 2012 legislative elections. This modality was accepted in the event that voters lived abroad.

Online voting does not require you to go through a particular machine (while electronic voting does), but the process may require that certain pre-requisites be met: use a specific, up-to-date type of web browser, or install a component concrete. , without which the process could not be completed. You also need to be authentic.

Internet voting could become a modality in the future, as this route is sometimes described as a solution to the abstention, which is reflected in the survey. However, the supposed benefits of online voting are being discussed and are being discussed. Nothing has been decided yet: this could not affect all French people or all political elections either.

Two different approaches, but similar reviews

Although electronic voting and Internet voting have obvious differences, they do share some commonalities. The use of technology, as we said before, is one of them. But the fears that carry one and the other of these modalities are another. Because it turns out that the concerns associated with the first are also found in the second.

These fears and criticisms are sometimes well-founded and legitimate, although they are often magnified by a certain fantasy. In addition to the question of the security of these devices in the face of internal or external threats, the two approaches share similar problems on the reliability and sincerity of the vote, the verifiability of operations, the transparency of the vote, and so on.

In fact, online voting can be considered more exposed. While there is one segment at risk with electronic voting, that is, the voting machine itself, there are three critical segments with online voting: the voter’s computer, the Internet connection to deliver instructions. and the remote platform, which is connected and hosts the electronic system. ballot box.

What are the differences between voting machines and online voting (via the Internet)?
Fraud also exists with paper voting, but transparency is easier to achieve and voting operations are understood by everyone, and the ballot box is transparent. Literally // Source: Arnaud Jaegers

We have devoted several articles to illustrating the problems posed by voting machines, but also to showing how this really happens in a polling station. We did the same with online voting, when the possibility was raised for a while in the midst of a coronavirus pandemic, not to cause a cluster in the offices.

Today, the status quo prevails. The government still does not know whether to accept or ban the voting machines. As for online voting, Emmanuel Macron wanted a return of French residents abroad for 2022. The idea was on his 2017 program. In the end, it didn’t happen. After that ? The door is not closed.

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