Election Universe

Technology a boon for illiterate voters – study reveals

Technology a boon for illiterate voters – study reveals
February 08 2018, 13:48

Illiteracy has always been a major exclusionary factor in elections. Voters who lack the ability to read and write often find themselves unable to exercise their right to choose their leaders, given most elections system’s dependence on these critical skills.

Yet a new paper by a leading provider of electronic voting offers the encouraging insight that inclusion of illiterate voters in the election process can be achieved by the introduction of the right technology.

“Empowering Illiterate Voters,”  published by Smartmatic, discusses the outcomes of the company’s study conducted in Venezuela (during the last 14 years), Philippines (since 2010), and similar studies in India and Brazil by academics and the election commissions.

The paper found that technology eases voting processes and improves accessibility for illiterate citizens. It also touched on several specific ways by which illiterate voters may be helped as by use of colors, symbols and or photographs in election materials (including paper or digital ballots, Election Day items, campaigning tools, among others).

According to the paper, India, which is a country beset by a high rate of voter illiteracy at 25%, simplified the voting process by allowing voters to identify their choices by party symbols. “Simplifying voting procedures is the first step to ensuring that illiterates can cast informed and valid votes,”.

The Smartmatic paper outlined the following findings in the Philippines:

  • Illiterate voters expressed high levels of satisfaction with the usability of the technology used during the voting process. 89% (in 2013) and 91% (in 2016) of voters who claim not to know how to read or write described the voting process as “easy”. The increase of 2% (from 2013 to 2016) suggests that this group of voters find it convenient to use optical scanners as they have become familiar with the technology.
  • The vast majority of illiterate voters believe election results to be credible. Trust levels are fairly consistent across the country, regardless of location. 2016 showed a slight improvement from 2013 as the total number of voters who expressed to have big “great trust” in the results increased from 70% to 73%.
  • Ease of use results are also very similar to those expressed by illiterate voters. 93% (in 2016) found “easy” the voting process with Smartmatic technology.

In Venezuela, comparative results of surveys from 2004, 2006, 2012 and 2015 showed:

  • The voting process with Smartmatic electronic voting machines is acknowledged as “easy” and “very easy” for over 93% of illiterate voters. In 2004, 86.6% of illiterate voters considered it easy, while by 2015 the percentage went up to 93.2%. After more than ten election processes, the voters expressed they are already familiar with the technology.
  • Illiterate voters declared they prefer automated elections: 81% in 2004, and 95% in 2015, over manual voting (11% in 2004 and 3% in 2015).
  • By 2015, 73% of illiterate voters considered the election technology used in Venezuela as “advanced and very modern.”