A ballot by definition is a sheet of paper or a card used to cast or register a vote, especially a secret one. In politics and government, a ballot is the democratic practice of selecting a representative, a course of action, or deciding some other choice by submitting the options to a vote by all qualified persons.[/size]
By using the ballot as the primary tool to express one's choice in elections, the voter exercises his basic right in a democratic society. The ballot is an important reflection of the voter's choice. The ballot has evolved from being a simple, white paper filled in by the voter himself into a modern, secure ballot that respects the secrecy of the vote, the security and the special needs of the different parts of the population in order to achieve elections free of fraud and influence and with a high voter turnout.
Having examined the ballot's definition and mechanism, and the role it plays in transforming the will of the voter into political results through the declaration of a political party's victory or defeat, the importance of the ballot's characteristics is evident. A modern, standardized, pre-printed ballot containing new, soft technologies in order to ensure a more secure, accurate and effective vote, and the integrating of this system into the electoral law, is essential.
A pre-printed ballot system has the following major advantages:
- It strengthens the secrecy of the ballot; the ballot papers are common to all voters and so cannot be traced back to an individual voter, thereby preventing threats against voters or rewarding vote-buying.
- It allows for the free expression of the voter’s wil; voters are free to choose the candidates (and the number of candidates) that they wish to vote for.
- Pre-printed ballots are easier to use by all voters; ballot papers can be used by everybody, including people who have difficulty reading or writing.
- Pre-printed ballots are easier to count; ballot papers can allow speedier counting and ensure that no names are misspelled or wrongly invalidated.
- Pre-printed ballots are more secure; the number of ballot papers can be easily reconciled with the number of people who voted, therefore preventing fraud.
In accordance with its importance and role, the pre-printed ballot has the following major characteristics:
- Security and safety. Considering the key role of the ballot in elections and the importance of maximizing the security of the votes, pre-printed ballots can include numerous security features:
- The use of special ink in the printing; marking the ballot with authentic marks, seals or special characters; the use of special paper that is sensitive to ultraviolet light.
- Vote counting can be carried out manually or electronically. Thanks to the standardized, typed information on the pre-printed ballots, counting would be easier than counting the current ballots that allow for variable handwriting. Alternatively, pre-printed ballots containing only marks could be counted electronically or using a scan.
- Other user-friendly characteristics:
- For example, the ballot could be multilingual, in Arabic and French or English. There could be a common template countrywide but with different versions for each electoral district. The ballot paper could be designed using consistent specifications but still be regulated by the election administration. The basic specifications are the size, color and weight of the ballot paper. In addition, the pre-printed ballot papers could include useful information for the voter, including information on the purpose/date of the election, the name of the electoral district and how to mark the ballot paper. Other specifications could be: the font/layout of the ballot paper and the way in which names and photos of candidates are formatted; the space between the candidates and the size of boxes to be marked;the layout and style of the texts on the ballot papers in order to simplify ballot completion; the inclusion of party symbols; the inclusion of candidate/ party leader photographs; and color coding for different ballots.
By having all these specifications on one ballot, and unlike the old so-called “ballot” used in elections in Lebanon, the voter will be empowered to make a better choice by using a secure, user-friendly ballot that will minimize security threats and maximize the accuracy of voter's will.