Voting method

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A voting method is the way in which people cast their votes in an election or referendum. There are several different methods in use around the world.

Paper-based methods[edit]

The most common voting method uses paper ballots on which voters mark their preferences. This may involve marking their support for a candidate or party listed on the ballot, or a write-in, where they write out the name of their preferred candidate if it is not listed.

Ballot letters in Israel

An alternative paper-based system known as ballot letters is used in Israel, where polling booths contain a tray with ballots for each party contesting the elections; the ballots are marked with the letter(s) assigned to that party. Voters are given an envelope into which they put the ballot of the party they wish to vote for, before placing the envelope in the ballot box.

Machine voting[edit]

Machine voting uses voting machines, which may be manual (e.g. lever machines) or electronic. In Brazil, voters type in the name of the candidate they wish to vote for and then confirm their vote when the candidate's photo is displayed on screen.[1]

Online voting[edit]

In some countries people are allowed to vote online. Estonia was one of the first countries to use online voting: it was first used in the 2005 local elections.[2]

Postal voting[edit]

Many countries allow postal voting, where voters are sent a ballot and return it by post.

Open ballot[edit]

In contrast to a secret ballot, an open ballot takes place in public and is commonly done by a show of hands. An example is the Landsgemeinde system in Switzerland, which is still in use in the cantons of Appenzell Innerrhoden, Glarus, Grisons and Schwyz.

Other methods[edit]

In Gambia voting is carried out using marbles, a method introduced in 1965 to deal with illiteracy.[3] Polling stations contain metal drums painted in party colours and emblems with candidates' photos attached to them.[4][3] Voters are given a marble to place in the drum of their chosen candidate; when dropped into the drum, a bell sounds to register the vote. As a result, bicycles are banned near polling booths on election day.[3] If the marble is left on top of the drum rather than placed on it, the vote is deemed invalid.[5]

A similar system used in social clubs sees voters given a white ball to indicate support and a black ball to indicate opposition. This led to the coining of the term blackballing.