Which Countries Use Electronic Voting?

The adoption of this technology has been inconsistent

Electronic voting systems are used in countries throughout the world, but the adoption of this technology has been somewhat scattershot. A few countries have tested electronic voting and adopted it, others have tried it out and abandoned it, and some continue to test it or have plans for further testing in the future.

Only a small handful of countries use electronic voting technology on an ongoing basis, and even fewer use it nationwide as the sole voting method.

Types of Electronic Voting in World Elections

India is one of the few countries in the world to fully implement electronic voting
Kevin Frayer / Getty Images News

There are three main types of electronic voting systems that have been used in elections around the world.

  • Optical scanning: The voter marks a physical paper ballot that is read by an optical scanner and then tabulated electronically. The scanners may be connected to a network, or the votes from each machine may be transported physically to a central location.
  • Direct recording: The voter inputs their votes directly into the voting machine without a physical ballot. The machine may or may not create a paper trail, and it may or may not provide the voter with a physical list of their votes to verify.
  • Vote over the internet: The voter places their vote over the internet, either from home or from an official polling place. A website or proprietary software or hardware may be used.

The oldest, and most common, is optical scan voting. Direct recording electronic (DRE) voting machines are newer and less common, and voting over the internet is the rarest of all.

Some countries use one type of voting nationwide, and others use different types in different areas. For instance, Brazil uses DRE voting machines throughout the country, while individual precincts in the United States use a variety of DRE voting machines, optical scan machines, and even manually-counted paper ballots.

Optical Scan Voting Machines in World Elections

Optical scan voting machines use paper ballots that are marked by the voter and then scanned for electronic tabulation. This process is very similar to traditional voting, but it allows ballots to be counted and results made available in a much shorter time frame.

Since optical scan technology has been around for so long, it has been used in many countries throughout the world. Some countries have adopted optical scan technology across the board, some have abandoned it, and others use it primarily for absentee votes.

Countries where optical scan voting is used in at least some municipalities include:

Canada, United States, Philippines, South Korea

Countries where optical scan voting has been discontinued include:

United Kingdom, Germany

Direct Recording Electronic Voting Machines And Internet Voting

Direct recording electronic voting machines don't use paper ballots. They record votes electronically, and store them electronically, without the voter interacting with any physical ballot. These machines can use touchscreen interfaces, dial controls, and push-buttons. Brazil and India are countries that have implemented DRE voting machines nationwide.

Some DRE machines use a single primary ballot that is inserted into the machine in some way to show voters which buttons to push to vote for which candidates and measures. Other machines use the same types of screens found in computers, tablets, and smartphones to display the ballots.

While there are no physical ballots used with DRE voting machines, some are designed to create a paper trail. These machines will typically print a ballot receipt for each voter to confirm. The receipts are then retained for verification and recount purposes.

Internet voting is the rarest form of electronic voting, and it allows voters to register their votes over the internet. These systems can use physical polling places or allow voters to use their own devices in their own homes. Estonia has implemented this type of voting nationwide, while other countries allow it in more limited circumstances.

Countries that use electronic voting nationwide:

Brazil, Estonia, India, Venezuela, Namibia, United Arab Emirates

Countries that use electronic voting in some areas:

Canada, United States, Peru, Argentina

Countries where electronic voting has been tested:

Bhutan, United Kingdom, Italy, Norway, Kazakhstan, Australia, Nepal, Philippines, Australia, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Russia, Mongolia, Nepal, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Finland, Somalia (Somaliland), Switzerland, Romania

Countries where electronic voting has been discontinued:

Belgium, France, Netherlands, Germany, Paraguay, Japan, Ireland, Kazakhstan, Lithuania (planned for 2020, scrapped)

Electronic Voting in United Arab Emirates

The United Arab Emirates instituted 100 percent electronic voting for their 2011 elections. According to official sources, voter turnout increased 80 percent compared to the previous election.

  • Type of electronic voting: DRE
  • Availability: Nationwide

Electronic Voting in Argentina

Electronic voting was first implemented in Argentina on a limited basis in 2004. Additional election reform legislation was passed in 2016. Argentina purchased DRE voting machines from South Korea for its 2017 national election, but they were not used due to security concerns.

  • Type of electronic voting: DRE
  • Availability: In some areas

Electronic Voting in Brazil

Brazil implemented DRE voting machines on a limited basis in 1996. The use of DRE voting machines was expanded throughout the country in 2000, and electronic voting is used at all levels nationwide. Paper ballots and voter-verifiable paper trail systems were eliminated entirely in 2018.

  • Type of electronic voting: DRE
  • Availability: Nationwide

Electronic Voting in Canada

Federal elections in Canada are all carried out via paper ballots. Some municipalities use optical scan and DRE voting machines, and internet voting has been made available in a limited number of precincts. Electronic voting is only used at the municipal level, never at the Federal level.

  • Type of electronic voting: Optical scan, DRE, internet
  • Availability: On the municipal level

Electronic Voting in Estonia

Estonia first implemented internet voting at the local level in 2005. Internet voting was expanded to the national level in 2007. Traditional polling places are still available, but about one-third of all votes in any given election are cast via the internet. Estonian citizens living abroad are also able to use internet voting.

  • Type of electronic voting: Internet
  • Availability: Nationwide

Electronic Voting in India

Electronic voting machines were first used in India in 1982, but they were not adopted into widespread use until much later. Partial adoption of DRE voting machines occurred in 1999, electronic voting was adopted nationwide in 2002.

India uses portable push-button DRE voting machines that run on battery power. They also use battery-powered voter-verifiable paper trail hardware. Internet voting has also been made available on a limited basis.

  • Type of electronic voting: DRE, limited internet
  • Availability: Nationwide

Electronic Voting in Namibia

Namibia became the first nation in Africa to use electronic voting in a nationwide election when DRE voting machines were used for the 2019 election. As this is a relatively new adoption, it remains to be seen if the technology will be used going forward.

  • Type of electronic voting: DRE
  • Availability: Nationwide

Electronic Voting in Peru

Peru implemented electronic voting machines for the first time in 2013, and it was expanded to cover about 14 percent of voters nationwide in the next few years. Touchscreen DRE voting machines are used in Peru.

  • Type of electronic voting: DRE
  • Type of DRE machines: Touchscreen
  • Availability: In some areas

United States

The United States uses optical scan machines in every state, although they are sometimes only used for absentee ballots. Some states have DRE voting machines in every local precinct, and other states use a mixture of paper ballots and DRE voting machines. Voting over the internet, email, and fax is mostly limited to specific military personnel.

  • Type of electronic voting: Optical scan, DRE, limited internet and fax
  • Availability: On the state, county and precinct level.

Electronic Voting in Venezuela

Venezuela implemented electronic voting in 1998. Touchscreen DRE voting machines are used throughout the country, and they include the ability to print a voter-verifiable paper trail. Vote results are also transmitted electronically, rather than physically transporting the machines to a central location.

  • Type of electronic voting: DRE
  • Type of DRE machines: Touchscreen
  • Availability: Nationwide