Last October, Belgium conducted local and provincial elections. The first half of a two-part election season, which will be completed next May with Parliamentary (Regional and Federal parliaments) and European elections.
1. A twofold election series
In October 2018, local elections in Belgium hosted provincial, municipal and city district polls. Smartmatic deployed its technology for 3.7 million voters in Flanders, the Brussels Capital Region, and the German-speaking Community of Belgium (DGB). In May 2019, the voting season will continue. Belgians will choose representatives to the European Parliament and also representatives to the country’s Regional and Federal Parliaments.
2. Electronic voting is growing stronger
Belgium has been spearheading election automation since 1991. During these last 28 years, the Belgian election body has shown the world its determination to continue leading the pack. In 2012, the Federal Public Service Interior selected Smartmatic as the voting technology provider of a custom-built new voting system for use in the three regions of Belgium (Flanders, Brussels-Capital, and Wallonia). During the 2018 and 2019 elections, the German-speaking Community of Belgium (DGB), Brussels-Capital, and Flanders are deploying Smartmatic’s touchscreen voting machines, which allow voters to make, verify, correct and confirm their choices. A built-in printer produces physical copies of each electronic vote, making of each voter an auditor.
3. New -and more accessible- voting machines
For the October local elections, a new voting machine (A4-517) and a new president machine (VIU-805) were added to Belgium’s existing electronic voting platform. The technology solution optimizes the voter experience by combining usability and accessibility features, both in the hardware and the software. An intuitive interface, buddy buttons, audio instructions and a control unit allow voters with special needs to vote independently. For instance, two Flemish municipalities, Aalst and Mechelen, offered voters with visual disabilities the possibility to cast their votes unaided while preserving the secrecy of their ballot, for the first time.
4. High voter participation rates
According to Pew Research studies, the highest turnout rates among OECD nations are in Belgium (87.2%), followed by Sweden (82.6%) and Denmark (80.3%). Switzerland, on the other hand, has the lowest turnout in the OECD consistently. “One factor behind Belgium’s high turnout rates – between 83% and 95% in every election for the past four decades – may be that it is one of the 24 nations around the world (and six in the OECD) with some form of compulsory voting.” Voting in Belgium is compulsory for everyone over 18 years old. More than 90% of registered citizens usually vote, out of an electorate of over 8 million people (October 2018), and close to 49% of Belgians vote electronically.