How Other Countries Have Addressed Election Security Threats

Many countries rely on paper ballots and scanners for more secure elections. Paper ballot voting systems are less vulnerable to error or hacking than electronic-only voting systems. Paper ballots marked by hand or with an assistive device can be verified by the voter, and then audited or recounted after the polls close.

Given the universal vulnerability of software, it’s not surprising that the United States is not the only country that has had issues with electronic voting systems.

In recent years, there has been a trend in the developing world towards electronic voting. However, many countries that experimented with electronic voting eventually discontinued these systems and opted to return to paper-based systems.

According to the International Foundation for Electoral Systems, as of 2013, eight countries in Europe had tried out electronic voting via pilot programs or bigger efforts. Of the eight, six completely switched to paper-ballots.[1] [2]

Below is a modern timeline of some countries that recently faced election security challenges.

Country Description of voting issues, reasons for using paper ballots Year Source
Japan Despite the passage of an electronic voting law in 2002, the system never gained traction and the last municipality using electronic voting machines abandoned it last year. 2018
Gambia The country will use its unique glass-marble voting system for the last time in this year’s elections and will switch to paper ballots “as per international standards.” 2018
Turkey The country has always used paper ballots and thus never faced the security challenges that other countries with electronic voting systems have experienced. However, almost every election cycle, the country grapples with the issue of unstamped paper ballots. 2017
France Eliminated Internet voting for citizens abroad due to cybersecurity concerns 2017
Finland Last year, a working group from the Ministry of Justice tasked with evaluating the introduction of internet-enabled electronic voting found that the system’s risks outweighed its benefits. The group found that the expected increase in voter turnout accompanying the new system would be rather insignificant. 2017
Canada Although electronic voting is being used in some municipal elections in the country, federal and provincial elections use paper ballots. Last year, the Special Committee on Electoral Reform recommended against online voting, and the government accepted that recommendation, citing cybersecurity and national defense concerns. 2017
Netherlands Though widely used from 1990 to 2007, electronic voting machines were eventually banned due to highly publicized security concerns. Last year, the government announced that all ballots in the general election would be counted by hand. 2017
South Korea The voters mark paper ballots with a rubber stamp using red ink. Since the country uses a central count model, the votes are then centrally either counted by hand or by optical scanners. The South Korean model was dubbed “a model of best practice” by the US-based Asia Foundation two years ago. N/A
Norway There were trials of electronic voting systems in the 2011 and 2013 elections. However, amid voters’ fears that their votes could become public, the process was discontinued in 2014. Political controversies and the failure to boost voter turnout were also reasons for ending the trials. 2014
Australia Piloted electronic voting but discontinued it. 2013
Italy Piloted electronic voting but discontinued it. 2013
UK Piloted electronic voting but discontinued it. The country has no plans to introduce electronic voting in its statutory elections. 2013
Kazakhstan The “Sailau” electronic voting system was discontinued, because of voters’ preferences, political parties’ distrust in the electronic system and the lack of funds needed for maintenance. 2011
Germany Ended electronic voting, since inability to have public scrutiny/audit of results rendered electronic voting unconstitutional 2009
Ireland The Environment Minister announced that the electronic voting system would be “scrapped” because of the voters’ higher confidence in and satisfaction with the paper-based system, and the unjustifiably high costs. 2009

[1] See Ben Goldsmith, Holly Ruthrauff, “Implementing and Overseeing Electronic Voting and Counting Technologies,” (International Foundation for Electoral Systems), 29-31.

[2] Goldsmith, “Implementing and Overseeing Electronic Voting and Counting Technologies,” 31.