Various methods may be employed to facilitate voting for those unable to reach a polling station.
- [States should foster citizen participation in the electoral process by]enabling all citizens to exercise their right to vote through proxy voting, postal voting or e-voting, on the condition that the secrecy and the security of the vote are guaranteed.
- Electronic voting methods must be secure and reliable. They are secure if the system can withstand deliberate attack; they are reliable if they can function on their own, irrespective of any shortcomings in the hardware or software. Furthermore, the elector must be able to obtain confirmation of his or her vote and, if necessary, correct it without the secrecy of the ballot being in any way violated.
- [V]oters should always have the possibility of voting in a polling station. Other means of voting are acceptable under the following conditions: iii. postal voting should be allowed only where the postal service is safe and reliable; the right to vote using postal votes may be confined to people who are in hospital or imprisoned or to persons with reduced mobility or to electors residing abroad; fraud and intimidation must not be possible.
- Where servicemen cannot return home on polling day, they should preferably be registered at polling stations near their barracks. Details of the servicemen concerned are sent by the local command to the municipal authorities who then enter the names in the electoral list. The one exception to this rule is when the barracks are too far from the nearest polling station. Within the military units, special commissions should be set up to supervise the preelection period, in order to prevent the risk of superior officers’ imposing or ordering certain political choices.
- [M]obile ballot boxes should only be allowed under strict conditions, avoiding all risks of fraud.
- [V]ery strict rules must apply to voting by proxy; the number of proxies a single voter may hold must be limited.
- Postal voting and proxy voting are permitted in countries throughout the western world, but the pattern varies considerably. Postal voting, for instance, may be widespread in one country and prohibited in another owing to the danger of fraud. It should be allowed only if the postal service is secure – in other words, safe from intentional interference – and reliable, in the sense that it functions properly. Proxy voting is permissible only if subject to very strict rules, again in order to prevent fraud; the number of proxies held by any one elector must be limited.
- The legal framework for elections may provide for other methods of voting, such as voting by mail or mobile voting. These types of voting may be available to a single individual, such as a person who is abroad on business; to a class of voters, such as diplomats, police, the military or other security forces; or to an entire community, such as persons displaced due to the outbreak of war.
- The use of mobile ballot boxes is undesirable because of the attendant serious risk of fraud. Should they nonetheless be used, strict conditions should be imposed to prevent fraud, including the attendance of several members of the polling station election commission representing different political groupings.
- Several countries are already using, or are preparing to introduce mechanical and electronic voting methods. The advantage of these methods becomes apparent when a number of elections are taking place at the same time, even though certain precautions are needed to minimise the risk of fraud, for example by enabling the voter to check his or her vote immediately after casting it. Clearly, with this kind of voting, it is important to ensure that ballot papers are designed in such a way as to avoid confusion. In order to facilitate verification and a recount of votes in the event of an appeal, it may also be provided that a machine could print votes onto ballot papers; these would be placed in a sealed container where they cannot be viewed. Whatever means used should ensure the confidentiality of voting.
- [E]lectronic voting should be used only if it is safe and reliable; in particular, voters should be able to obtain a confirmation of their votes and to correct them, if necessary, respecting secret suffrage; the system must be transparent.
- Voters should always have the possibility of voting in a polling station; other means of voting are, however, acceptable on certain conditions, as indicated below.