Some 10 million ballot papers in the 9 April Italian general election will be submitted electronically following a recent government decree legalising e-voting in up to five unspecified Italian regions. The system, tested during recent regional elections in Liguria, starts traditionally enough as voters tick their preferred candidate on their ballots. The real innovation comes next as the papers are scanned electronically at polling stations and relayed back to the interior ministry in Rome. Checks, controls and any eventual recounts will then be performed by computer far more quickly and, in theory, more efficiently than by hand. The government claims the new system, which will be monitored by the pan-European OSCE, will cut processing times by 65-70 per cent after reducing the number of operations involved from nine to three. While the new scheme aids vote collection more than voters, there are also plans afoot for a credit-card style voting system whereby voters will vote electronically with a personalised (thumb-printed) plastic ballot card. The system has been tried in four Italian cities (Avellino, S. Benedetto del Tronto, Campobasso, Cremona) as part of a wider European e-voting trial.
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