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Voting Unboxed: Unique Electoral Systems Worldwide

A journey through electoral quirks and modernizations

05 Apr '24
5 min read


"The ballot is stronger than the bullet." - Abraham Lincoln

In the words he spoke, Lincoln reflected the timeless fact that the act of voting has more power than any force exercised through violence or oppression. He underscored the pivotal role of voting in shaping the destiny of nations.

A variety of factors influence how voting processes are arranged in different countries. For example, elections in the United States are held on Tuesdays since the country was mostly an agricultural nation in the past. Farmers traveled considerable distances to polling sites, which had to be considered; they could not leave on Sundays because most Americans were devoted Christians, and they had to return on Wednesday, market day. As a result, Tuesdays were chosen as the most appropriate day for voting.

What Is Super Tuesday? Why Is It Significant For US Presidential Elections  2024 - Heres What You Must Know

Other elements that influence a ballot may be a country's harsh geography or its diversity of languages, traditions, and cultures. Conflicts and technology can also impact how people vote. 

With elections on the horizon in India, where citizens are gearing up to exercise their right to vote, it's a good time to take a look at how other countries handle their elections. Ensuring that every citizen can participate in choosing their leaders is a big task, and different places have come up with some interesting ways to make it happen.

Exit Polls for 2023 Assembly elections: When and where to check results |  Latest News India - Hindustan Times
Source: Hindustan Times

This article explores the unique and sometimes unusual ways used by countries around the world to enable voting, from Estonia's use of technology to Gambia's peculiar voting rites and the democratic traditions of Switzerland and Germany.

Vote or fine, Australia

Voting is mandatory in Australia: if you skip your ballot, the government will send you an email or text message asking for an explanation. If you do not pay or if you have gotten a non-voter notification before, the fee increases. 

The Greens are pushing to lower Australia's voting age. Here's what you  need to know | SBS News

While it is still argued whether compulsory voting is an effective approach to involve people in democracies, it is worth mentioning that Australia has the world's highest electoral turnout rate: 89% in the 2022 elections.

Many governments demand voting, but only a few enforce it. You may face a fine in Argentina, just as you would in Australia. In Brazil, documentation of voting conformity, or a convincing rationale, is required to obtain a passport or admission to a public university. Failure to vote in Singapore will result in your removal from the electoral roll. 

Internet magic, Estonia

Estonia, on the other hand, is renowned for its innovative approach to voting, particularly its pioneering implementation of internet voting, also known as i-Voting or online voting. Since 2005, Estonian citizens have had the option to vote securely via the Internet in local and parliamentary elections. The system employs cryptographic techniques to ensure the integrity and anonymity of the vote. 

Cybersecurity and transparency of system designs are crucial to making internet  voting a reality in the UK | University of Surrey

It has been lauded for its convenience, accessibility, and efficiency, although concerns about cybersecurity and the potential for coercion remain subject to ongoing scrutiny and refinement. Despite these concerns, Estonia's internet voting system represents a notable advancement in leveraging technology to enhance electoral participation.

Marble game, Gambia

When Gambians arrive at voting locations to vote, they do not cast any ballots! Instead, they utilize one glass marble for each voter and drop them into one of several drums. Each drum represents a distinct political party and is painted in party colors with a picture of their candidate attached. Marbles are then counted at polling booths on dedicated boards. This technique, dating back to 1965, was designed to allow even those who couldn't read to vote.

The Gambia's 55-Year-Old Marbles Voting System Is Simple but Difficult To  Cheat
Source: Wire

The Landsgemeinde, Switzerland

The town square--a place to promenade, converse, and vote? In sections of Switzerland, town squares may contain all of them, as some locations hold an annual Landsgemeinde or Cantonal Assembly. In some locations, locals assemble annually in the town square to vote on various issues by raising their hands, with a simple majority required to accept proposals. This method, one of the best examples of direct democracy, originated in the Middle Ages and was necessary due to mountain towns' frequent isolation from one another.

Swiss town casts votes, reaches decisions in open-air with show of hands
Source: NBC

Going Through Doors - Germany

When it is too difficult to determine which side has a majority in a vote, all members of the Bundestag, the German parliament, must leave the room. They then re-enter the chamber via one of three doors: "yes," "no," or "abstain."As they return, staff personnel stationed at the entrances tally how many members have passed through each door and report the totals to the speaker. What a magnificent re-entrance!

Elections and Democracy: Germany's Mixed Member Proportional System - The  Peninsula Foundation

Despite the differences in methods, these different strategies share a common thread: a dedication to safeguarding citizens' fundamental rights to participate in determining their collective future. Nations seek to ensure that everyone's voice is heard and every vote matters, whether by pressure, technical innovation, or old rituals.

Furthermore, these diverse electoral procedures demonstrate democracy's adaptability and durability in the face of changing sociopolitical situations. As we traverse the intricacies of contemporary democracy, investigating these various voting systems provides essential insights into the global pursuit of democratic values.

Nations may pave the way for more robust, egalitarian, and participatory election systems by embracing innovation, conserving tradition, and cultivating diversity, ensuring that the democratic spirit thrives in every corner of the world. 

As citizens, let us remember the importance of our duties in preserving democracy and voting every time our country conducts elections.

Category : Activisim


Written by Deepali Singh