After more than 15 years of development, if the new law permits, Thailand’s Election Commission (EC) will introduce an e-voting system for the 2017 general election. They claim the system will make voting more convenient for citizens, speed up the tallying allowing results to be known immediately after the polls close, and reduce the cost of public elections in the long term. Unfortunately, due to a budget insufficient to purchase all the machines simultaneously, they will be available in only 100 polling stations where voters can choose to vote either manually or electronically. However, the e-voting benefits will likely be undermined by a pervasive lack of public trust. The EC has primarily promoted e-voting on their website, which sports a voting machine simulator which people can try online. To cast a vote electronically, after a manual identification process, a voter can indicate their choice by pushing a button. A paper receipt is then automatically printed out, which the voter may examine and verify before depositing it in a ballot box. This type of machine is most recommended for building people’s faith in the e-voting. This is because the voter can confirm that his vote was recorded as they intended. Receipts from a random sample of polling station can also be manually counted to verify the results of an election and even serve as backups if there are problems with the machine.
Yet, paper receipts alone are not a panacea for guaranteeing accurate and transparent elections. The technical challenges of e-voting are considerable and arise from the complexities of electronic systems and procedures. For instance, software bugs are almost inevitable and can sometimes make computers malfunction in subtle ways that might be undetectable using random sample recounts, as seen in the case of the programming errors in the voting machines in Virginia in 2003. This is not to mention the risk of manipulation by insiders with privileged access to the system or from outside hackers. It is accepted that ideally, the software and hardware used in the system should be scrutinized and certified by an independent testing authority who would then reveal the testing process and its results to the public. All auditing documentation must also be made freely accessible to the public.