Election Universe

4 technology concerns in the road for the 2020 Elections

4 technology concerns in the road for the 2020 Elections
November 11 2018, 15:58

Though the U.S. Presidential elections are just around the corner, there are cybersecurity and policymaking experts still pondering the 2016 results. Meanwhile, voters and elected officials are still adjusting to the outcome of the 2018 midterm polls.

The election technology to be used during next year’s election will be a critical. There are at least four essential topics, which will draw substantial research, development, legislation and investment. These are:

  1. Aging and outdated electronic voting machines
  2. Cybersecurity
  3. Blockchain
  4. Post-election audits

A study by The Brennan Center for Justice (March 2019) shows that state and local election officials (121 in 31 states) aspire to replace their equipment before the 2020 primaries, but two-thirds of these officials agree they don’t have enough funds to do so. Last year, Congress delivered $380 million for Help America Vote Act (HAVA) to help commissions improve election security and technology. However, most states report having used this money for critical security measures.

The main problems with aging voting equipment are on one hand that “they are more likely to fail and are increasingly difficult to maintain.” On the other hand, and more importantly, most outdated systems lack the security features and protocols to fight cybersecurity attacks expected of shielded voting machines today.

Cybersecurity is, in fact, an urgent mission. After allegations of foreign meddling in recent polls globally and special reports on Russia’s interest in past U.S. elections, guaranteeing the implementation of cybersecurity standards has become a priority step across the election cycle.

For instance, according to the Brennan Center report, the 12 states using electronic voting machines which do not produce a paper record have become the most vulnerable focus to hackers and election manipulation.

How can paper voting records in election technology be crucial to enhance cybersecurity? The answer is simple: they allow robust post-election audits. ScientificAmerican.com recently dedicated an article on auditing as a cyber defense tool.

“If you have a paper record that the voter got to inspect, then that can’t later be changed by a cyber-attack. The cost to do so is relatively low. It would cost about $25 million a year to audit to high confidence every federal race nationally. Today only about 79 percent of votes across the country are recorded on a piece of paper. If you have no paper trail, then it’s impossible to perform a rigorous audit,” explained the piece.

Technology is shaping a new perception of how democracy can contribute to defending human rights and political participation. Flexibility, customization, transparency, and convenience are at the forefront of the industry’ innovation. For instance, and despite critics from the more skeptics, blockchain technology is building a solid position to share value and an extra option for online voting system.

Blockchain might offer additional layers of transparency and security to critical processes such as verification of voters or storage of votes. Nevertheless, the technology still needs much research, trials, field studies, and dedicated e-voting expertise to be considered a reliable alternative for mobile internet-based polls.