Safety in E-Voting

Written by Robyn Wright ’13

This week in Election 2012, electronic voting and its relationship with patent laws was subject to debate.

As technology has advanced, so has our reliance upon it, which can pose a few concerns in the upcoming election.

While e-voting has increased efficiency in voting, direct-recording electronic voting systems (DREs) are not infallible. After all, “To err is human, but to really foul things up requires a computer.”

Computers have the potential to crash or fail, and if so, is it possible to perform a recount? With computers, there isn’t always a paper trail to call in the voters whose votes were lost.

A 2006 study, performed by computer science students at Princeton University, found students could hack DREs and steal votes in under 10 seconds through the use of computer viruses.

While it is hard to imagine a nationwide election being rigged in such a manner, it is certainly possible at the local level.

Why hasn’t much progress been made to correct this flaw? Well, in 2008 there were only four manufacturing companies producing these machines. Software is property, and companies have the right to keep their intellectual properties hidden.

However, keeping the software hidden prevents improvement through competition. Patents are useful for spurring invention and giving credit where credit is due, but what happens when this right to intellectual property usurps our right to vote? The American people have a conundrum on their hands.


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