I was lucky enough to vote in three different countries. The election process is highly critical because it ensures that a democracy works properly. But like any process, it can be improved. At first I summarize the way the poll is conducted in the three countries. You can go directly to the analysis of the processes. For this analysis, I chose to address three aspects of this process: voter experience, integrity and anonymity.
Three countries, three different election processes
France: Getting organized to vote
To vote in France, it is mandatory to be registered on the electoral rolls at least one month before the date of the election. The poll takes place on a Sunday. The voter shows up at the polling station assigned to him, with identification. A voter card speeds up the process. The majority of the polls take place in two rounds, two weeks apart.
After verifying the identity, the scrutineer (volunteer) hands over an envelope. The ballots for each candidate are aligned, the voter must take at least two ballots. The voter chooses his candidate and places the corresponding ballot in the envelope. He then shows up to vote and the scrutineer checks his identity again. He signs in front of his name on the electoral list. A scrutineer opens the ballot box for the voter to cast his ballot. The ballot box has a counter, as well as a bell to “monitor” the opening of the box.
Quebec: Simplify while limiting risk
To vote in Canada,you must be on the list, or register at the polling station. Voting takes place on weekdays, and employers must ensure that their employees have at least 4 hours in a row to vote. The voter shows up at the assigned polling station on polling day or on advance polling days.
At the polling station, the voter obtains a ballot. He blackens the dot of the candidate he chooses. He then shows up at the ballot box table. The scrutineer verifies his identity and updates the electoral roll. The voter places his ballot in the ballot box. Canadians can also vote by mail or at another polling station using a special ballot. These ballots are counted several days after the election. In general they do not change the result.
New Zealand: Simplicity and voter experience first and foremost
To vote in New Zealand,you must also be registered on the roll, which can be done at the polling station. The poll takes place on a Saturday, advance voting days are also the norm. The government recommends voting in one of the polling stations in your constituency. However, it is possible to vote anywhere in the country. A voter card speeds up the process. The voter must not present any identification to vote.
The scrutineer (employee) hands over the ballots for the vote. General elections are for parliament and one or more referendums. New Zealand operates with a mixed proportional system: one vote for a candidate and one vote for a political party. You have to check the box of the candidate and the party or the chosen option. The voter will then deposit each ballot in the ballot box according to a color code.
On what criteria to evaluate the election process?
In 2020, the customer experience is at a peak. The majority of organizations put their client first and make sure to make things simpler and more efficient. Governments also have taken steps to improve the user experience. So I chose to evaluate the voter experience.
Second, as these processes are key to ensure the proper functioning of democracy, I have opted for two key criteria: integrity and anonymity. The process must ensure that each voter can vote once and only once. I must also ensure that no one can know who you voted for.
Voter Experience: Is it easy and quick to vote?
Clearly New Zealand wins here. The aim is to facilitate access to voting, even at the last minute. The electoral system is a little more complex, but the process is extremely simple. The voter has a wide choice of dates and places to vote. In addition, communications are very inviting and easy to understand.
On the other hand, France obliges its voters to organize themselves, whether to register on the list or to be available on polling days. There is a proxy system, but again, you have to do it in advance and fill out forms. The process at the polling station is also more complex with several stages of verification and identification.
Election Integrity: Is it easy to vote twice?
The French administrative burden is good. Unless you are registered on two different lists, it is impossible to place two ballots in the ballot box. With the ability to cross-reference lists electronically, the system is extremely robust and ensures the integrity of the ballot.
The same is true in Canada, registration on the electoral rolls is simpler because it is done on the tax declaration. The system is centralized. Similarly, given that the list is updated as the ballot progresses, it is impossible to place two ballots in the ballot box.
Anonymity: Is it possible to know who voted what?
Canada and France guarantee complete anonymity. This is the basis of democracy: voting is secret. Moreover, any ballot with a marking or identification is counted as null.
In New Zealand, this is not the case, every ballot has a code, which is copied on the voter card. A black tape masks the code. However, it is possible to remove this tape and make the link with the voter card. It is a cumbersome manual process, but possible. When reconciling the electoral rolls, if a person has voted several times, the voter card will be searched. Then every ballot is checked to find the illegal votes. It happens less than a dozen times in each election. The vote is therefore not technically anonymous.
It is impossible to reconcile everything. Like any organization, states make choices and prioritize the aspects that are important to them. The balance between the different aspects is unique to each country. Each election process is therefore unique.