Election Universe

An introduction to absentee voting

July 25 2014, 12:00

Absentee voting is performed by someone unable to attend the polling location to which they’ve been allocated. Increasing access to it is seen as one way to increase voter turnout. Though some countries insist on people giving a valid reason, such as illness, disability or being abroad at the time, why they can’t vote in person.


Voting at a different polling station
Some countries provide people with the opportunity to vote at a polling station other than the one to which they’ve been assigned. In the Australian voting system, this is known as an ‘absentee ballot’. Voters can cast their ballot outside the federal district in which they’re registered to vote. And instead of placing their ballot in the ballot box, it’s put in an envelope and sent to their home district.

Postal voting

Posting voting is a form of absentee voting where a citizen requests to cast their ballot by mail. They’re sent a ballot paper which they return in the post, along with some kind of proof of identity. Under the UK voting system, postal votes are available on demand. No reason is needed. In the 2010 Parliamentary elections, 6.9 million electors requested postal voting packs. 5.8 million were returned, meaning that postal turnout was 83%, compared to 63%, where people had to visit their polling station. Electoral commission data also shows that postal voters are consistently more satisfied and confident in the process. However, there are concerns over secrecy and postal voting is open to abuse. In 2005, a High Court Judge said the UK’s postal voting system was ‘wide open to fraud’ and said the vote-rigging that took place in Birmingham ‘would disgrace a banana republic’.

Proxy voting

This is where a person nominates someone else to vote on their behalf. The person could be disabled, overseas, or could have an education or employment-related reason for not voting in person.

Internet voting

Internet voting, or I-voting, is where citizens cast their ballot online. It’s often called electronic voting or e-voting – but it’s not to be confused with electronic voting via electronic voting machines. Estonia has been offering its people the option to vote online since a pilot in 2005. Critics point to the security issues associated with online voting. Proponents emphasize that work is being done to make internet voting systems more secure all the time – and that postal voting is more likely to be open to abuse and fraud Certainly, in Estonia, people remember when the paper voting was falsified – one of the very reasons to adopt an electronic system in the first place.

Electronic voting machines (EVMs)

If you include absentee voting to mean overseas voting, then we can look at the use of electronic voting machines. The Philippines offers some of its citizens abroad the opportunity to vote on touchscreen voting machines in certain consulates. In 2010, absentee Filipino voters in Hong Kong and Singapore were able to vote using the country’s automated system (optical scanners). In 2013, COMELEC extended this provision to overseas Filipino voters in Kuwait, as well as in certain cities in the UAE and Saudi Arabia.