Electronic Voting in Developing CountriesIn an increasingly digital world, reducing paper consumption and productions seems like a good option. However, cutting out paper is not always just an issue of sustainability. Electronic voting in developing countries is a means of preserving democracy.

Electronic voting (e-voting) in developing countries is quickly gaining traction to replace paper-based voting. The technology is flexible. Citizens are able to vote remotely via the internet or use a variety of electronic kiosks. Developing countries’ reasonings behind making this switch lie in various prevailing issues around the world. These include election corruption and ballot cheating, low voter turnout or political violence.

Many developing countries historically experience rigged or unsuccessful elections. However, electronic voting in developing countries may hold the key to not only average but high voting rates. If implemented efficiently, it could appeal to youth voters and encourage marginalized people to vote. In addition, it could allow voting in different languages with instant translation features (a major advantage in countries with multiple native languages). There has been much success in the endeavors of electronic voting in developing countries.


India boasts a population of over 1.3 billion. Despite this, the country’s transition to e-voting is often hailed as an example of successful political technology. Experimentally implemented in 1998, India’s e-voting has skyrocketed to success in recent years. India’s main motivation for pursuing e-voting stemmed from the recurring high costs of paper-based elections and to “strengthen the electoral process” in general. This optimistic goal proved largely successful.

According to a 2017 study by Brookings, “the introduction of EVMs [Electric Voting Machines] led to (i) a significant decline in electoral fraud, (ii) strengthening the weaker and vulnerable sections of the society and (iii) a more competitive electoral process.”

Three major issues in previous Indian elections prompted these necessary solutions. Citizens would stuff ballot boxes, which led to untraceable fraud. Women, disabled citizens and lower castes were discouraged to vote since their ballots would often be deliberately uncounted by human talliers. Finally, as a result of years of voting fraud, politicians did not have much competition because fraudulent elections created a monopoly around the majority candidate.

E-voting largely solved these issues. The machines only register five votes each minute to combat virtual ballot stuffing. Marginalized groups are encouraged to vote since their vote will not be counted by a biased and politically motivated person. More candidates have a better shot at being elected due to the higher representation of all voices.


Electronic voting in developing countries, such as the Philippines, also serves as a model of success. After implementing e-voting through the British company Smartmatic, the country’s 2016 election brought 81% of the Philippines’ 100 million people to the polls in a record turnout. At the time, the election stood as “the largest electronic vote-counting project in history.”

Aside from the high turnout, the election also broke a record for the fastest voting count. The e-voting machines immediately tracked and published the results online as votes came in. The technology was also carefully surveilled preceding and during the election with the aid of more than 200,000 citizen volunteers to prevent crashes.

After the election, Smartmatic CEO Antonio Mugica lauded the victory, calling it “a landmark in electoral automation with the largest ever manufacture and deployment of Vote Counting Machines making this a truly historic moment.”

While the Vote Counting Machines experienced widespread technical difficulties in the country’s 2019 midterm election, Filipinos are working to get their machines up and running in order to produce another smooth election like in 2016.


Nigeria looked to implement e-voting in the 1990s due to concerns that plague many African nations. It is among many countries in the continent that consistently report election violence, ballot stuffing, government-manipulated results and voter suppression as pressing issues in elections.

Nigeria formed the Independent National Electoral Commission to integrate Electronic Voting Systems into their elections. The group plotted out polling locations across the country. They used a Geographic Information System technology to map out the country’s population density to more accurately monitor the votes coming in from all areas.

While e-voting is still in its infancy in Nigeria, “it has been considered a necessity and as the only solution for credible elections.” The initial instating of e-voting proved largely unsuccessful in Nigeria. However, technology is seen as a promising means to curb the overflow of political violence and issues rampant in the country’s elections in the future.

Problems with and the Future of Electronic Voting in Developing Countries

While electronic voting in developing countries has promoted healthy, democratic elections in many instances, it is not without its problems. Technology, especially the type being sent to developing countries, has an easy tendency to glitch and lend itself to user errors for those unfamiliar with the technology.

Furthermore, many countries have used e-voting to combat top-down corruption. However, the technology would still be under the jurisdiction of the government. Therefore, it carries the potential to be just as rigged and produce more fraudulent, difficult-to-trace results. E-voting also makes recounting virtually impossible due to the lack of a paper trail.

However, many developing countries have nonetheless used this technology to their advantage. They are in the process of making e-voting a dependable reality. Namibia, Ghana and Khazakstan are in the early stages of e-voting and hoping to solely run elections with e-voting soon. With the aid of continuing technological advancement, e-voting can hopefully plant a successful footing in developing countries.

Grace Ganz
Photo: Flickr