From checking in at your local polling venue on a computer or tablet, to registering to vote by smartphone, or using an electronic voting machine to cast a ballot, computers have become an important part of voting in America. As election time nears, however, concern about the security of those computers is high, and everyone from politicians to engineers are addressing ways to keep the process safe from hacking or harm.
Even though touch screen computers have been in use for more than a decade, the last four years have brought so much news of foreign and domestic computer hacking, disruptive social engineering, and potential election rigging that many people are asking to return to systems with paper receipts.
While American intelligence agencies have warned of the dangers of new influence campaigns penetrating the 2020 elections, retreating to old systems isn’t the answer. And the concern is for much more than voting machines. Intelligence agencies have also cited their concern for things that could affect elections such as rerouting internet traffic and infiltrating power grids.
Companies such as Microsoft are also working on solutions to support election security. In a recent announcement, Microsoft said it will release an open-source software development kit called ElectionGuard that will use encryption techniques to let voters know when their vote is counted. It will also allow election officials and third parties to verify election results to make sure there was no interference with the results.
An election system using Microsoft’s ElectionGuard would provide a voter with a unique code that would not reveal who or what they voted for. The code could then be used to follow the vote from the moment the voter casts it, after the voter has verified the selections are correct, to the moment it’s counted. It’s still new, but agencies are looking at it as one possible solution to help.
Meanwhile, while the tech experts and politicians work on ways to keep our election systems unsullied, the best thing we as citizens can do is educate ourselves, be active at the polls, and not let adversity keep us from having a voice.