The advent of cyberspace has opened up many possibili- ties and now paves the way for a long overdue change in the way voters elect officials. It is time to purge outdated voting methods and use cyber platforms, which can
improve voter turnout and the nation’s confidence in returns.
Despite landmark constitutional changes that give the right
to vote to most adults, U.S. voter turnout is notoriously low—
When it comes to electing the president of the
United States, voters cite a laundry list of excuses
that keep them from the polls. Voting takes place
during work hours; polling locations are inconvenient; lines are
too long. Add to that list the fear of election fraud, as featured
in the 2006 documentary Hacking Democracy, which exposed
multiple methods used to alter votes. Then, there are recent
problems with malfunctioning voting machines. In 2012,
glitches with machines in several states, including Colorado,
Georgia, Ohio, South Carolina and Virginia, caused voters to
wait for hours in long lines.
Cyber voting is the next logical progression in election procedures to ensure—and increase—voter turnout. Instead of
dedicating attention to hiring election workers and printing
ballots, the government should focus on developing easy-to-understand graphics and user interfaces, creating stronger firewalls and establishing voter authenticity methods to secure the
integrity of voting in the 21st century.
A vast majority of the nation’s voting population already
is connected—especially millennials, noted for being polling
station no-shows. Last year, 64 percent of U.S. adults owned a
smartphone, an increase from 35 percent in 2011, according to
Pew. The number of smartphone users jumped to 85 percent
when tallied for young adults 18 to 29. People live their lives
on their smartphones. Already, the average person looks at a
smartphone 46 times every day, according to Time magazine.
Voting via mobile devices is a rational next step in how Americans select their lawmakers.
But voting would not have to be limited to smartphones or
other mobile devices. A vast majority of citizens has access
to computers either at home, work or public venues such as
libraries. In fact, the “offline population” is rapidly dwindling as
the number of computers and devices grows. Today, 85 percent
of U.S. residents possess both the technology and the access to
be able to vote online, according to Pew.
Computers, tablets and even smartwatches all have the
capability to permit a robust cyber-voting platform. But that’s
not to say this method completely protects the integrity of elections. Risks always will exist, but surprisingly, threats associated
with a cyber-based voting platform in the era of the Internet
of Things can be minimized, resulting in potentially safer
methods than those used today. Opponents of digital voting
cite the high risk of tampering, a plausible concern as security
Online Voting Is the Future
is relegated to state and local officials. One vulnerability stems
from the default administration password used throughout the
life of most voting machines. It would be impossible to change
the password for each machine, considering how infrequently
the machines are used—likely no more than five times a year
and rarely by the same election officials. Frequently changing
passwords could lead to colossal hazards, including permanently forgetting passwords. One alternative is to write down
passwords, but that too increases security vulnerabilities.
Another weakness, highlighted in Hacking
Democracy, is that hackers can access some computerized voting machines and alter, without
detection, recorded votes.
Proponents of digital voting are not blind
to these threats and acknowledge the possibility of foreign
nations, nonstate actors or hacktivist groups successfully
tampering with election results. In 2012, the Russian govern-ment-funded TV network RT quoted Russian election chief
Vladimir Churov calling the U.S. electoral system “among
the worst in the world.” Churov noted that electronic voting
machines do not provide voters with a receipt of their vote
and are highly vulnerable to manipulation—one problem
But precedence of secure use exists. Already, citizens share
some of their most sensitive information online. Citizens
can file their annual taxes and even register to vote using
the Internet. The government communicates using cyber, a
medium that led to the creation of the Department of Homeland Security’s National Cybersecurity and Communications
Integration Center (NCCIC) to protect against cyberthreats.
Industry strives to improve security mechanisms every day.
Cyber voting would require increased proof of identity and
authenticity of U.S. citizenship—opening the way for biometric technology uses or the development of highly secure login
servers and private and public key encryption solutions.
Computers and cybersecurity policies already exist and are
integrated into our lives. All we need to do is connect to the
cyber realm and incorporate elections into the Internet of
Cyber provides security and convenience, and we need to
vote for that.
Senior Airman Ryan René Rosado, USAF, is an intelligence
analyst. She also received the Distinguished Young AFCEAN
award for 2015 and is a member of AFCEA’s Alamo chapter.
The views expressed here are her own.
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contact: Ryan René Rosado,
BY SENIOR AIRMAN RYAN
RENÉ ROSADO, USAF