‘Paperless’ Voting

Written by Jessica Oakley ’15

Elections 2012: Jaime Spacco

It is certainly true that our society has changed in innumerable ways since voting started, following the Revolutionary War. Arguably, one of the most important advances we have made is in the field of technology, specifically within the last 50 years.

Many corporations, government offices, and people have gone virtually “paperless.” To most people in our generation, it would seem natural that something that affects as many people as voting does would take that turn, too. The “traditional” method of voting, by filling out paper ballots or punch cards is not only slow, antiquated, and costly — it can lead to complicated election recounts and controversy.

While there has been a move toward electronic-voting systems, most notably through a company called Diebold, it has not come without challenges. There are three companies which hold the vast majority of government contracts for voting machines.

While use of these machines has begun to be more widely accepted, many still question the security of these systems. However, due to the design of both the hardware and software being under multiple copyrights and patents, it is impossible for almost anybody outside the Federal Election Commission to see how truly safe the software is.

Illustration: Ballot box

And, even for those who do have access, next to none are technologically savvy enough to understand the software and determine any security faults/issues.

During his lecture, (Assistant Professor of Computer Science) Jaime Spacco, argues that the software behind the voting machines should be considered “open-source.” That is to mean that anybody can access the “inner workings.”

While some may perceive it as a potential security threat, it is actually a benefit, due to the fact that now many different eyes can see the systems, and suggest improvements to make them as secure as possible.

Opposition to this plan comes mainly from the three very politically connected companies, on the basis that this would reveal trade secrets and not allow the companies to benefit and compete.

Is the tradeoff of security worth a slight decrease in privacy for these companies? That decision is yours to make.

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