Electronic voting refers to any voting process whether political or organizational that involves the use of computer technology to collect and tally the votes. Electronic voting has revolutionized the tallying and voting process and has brought fundamental changes throughout all levels of government. This paper focuses on election campaigns around America and how the use of information technology is increasing with each election. There exist myriad technical and legal issues regarding electronic voting and how they have affected elections in America.
Now, more so than any other time in history, voting and tallying in elections are being influenced by technology. With significant government funds now available to replace outdated punch-card and mechanical voting systems, towns and states throughout America are embracing paperless electronic voting systems. Political candidates who wish to run for any public seat today have a lot of leverage due to the upgrade of voting systems. As opposed to the manual system, voters can easily cast their vote and it is recorded faster and in a real time manner therefore the main advantage that candidates have in the electronic process is speed therefore results of the electronic votes will be ready almost immediately.
This is electronic voting is essentially casting a ballot through a computer. Firstly, a digital swipe-card, touch screen or mechanical buttons are used to enable the voter to make the choices he or she would like. The vote is then stored in a physical memory device which will later be transported to a centralized terminal station. Public network DRE voting mechanisms can transmit the results after every voter has cast their vote or in groups throughout the day of election. Although the votes can be sent through the web, this method is only used to speed up the rate of counting. The physical memory devices will still be used to authenticate the count. As mentioned, electronic methods of voting is better because of its reduced cost, faster recording of results, improved accessibility and reliability and generally lower risk of mechanical and man made errors.
After casting their vote in the polling booth, the voter is not required to go to the presiding officer to have their ballot paper stamped and wait until the official has deposited the ballot paper in the voting register to ensure that they have voted. In the same way, on the day of election, voters do not have to wait for their ballots to be stamped or drop them into the ballot box. The electronic system of voting also increases the security and authenticity of the candidates’ vote because the vote is transported securely and reliably into the main electronic ballot box. With the introduction of electronic voting on a wider scale, the whole country, it will be possible to vote at any polling station. Furthermore, it is highly unlikely that in an electronic voting process, electronic errors will be made by mistake; this is because the identification data of the chosen candidate will be visible on the screen before the vote is finalized. Another advantage for the candidate is that there is no uncertainty in interpreting the electronic vote. In the case of manual paper ballots, unclear marks and numbers may often cause problems rendering the vote null.
The voting system however has a number of disadvantages on the candidate that are important to note, they include; strictly-electronic methods do not establish a way in which the voter can truly verify that the cast ballot tallies to that being recorded or transmitted, secondly, no electronic voting system has been certified by any arm of the law, thirdly, online voting whether at polling stations or any other institutions provides probability of system attack to the entire globe, lastly, electronic voting does not provide equal opportunity for voting by all citizens, especially poor and marginalized communities with little or no internet access (Rivest, 2010).
It is a well known fact that computer technology at present does not have the ability to ensure a safe and undoubted election using only electronic devices. Thorough investigation of voter claims, and disparities of performance in elections, have illustrated the existence of serious notable flaws in the tallying system. Candidates that rely on assurances of security and authenticity when using electronic voting systems, run the risk that they will experience an election whose results may someday be questioned but they will not be able to show an audit that can ratify the content of the legitimate ballots cast. In addition, election malpractices may be illustrated years after an election, making all previous election outcomes questionable.
The use of the internet in electronic voting has some fundamental aspects that are to be discussed below. Although the internet provides a faster and real time approach to the voting and tallying process there are some irregularities that could arise given the existence of carious web criminals on the loose. As many scholars have lamented, security is only as strong as its weakest link. Casting of votes across the World Wide Web will always be affected by factors extending way beyond the internet algorithms. Vote authenticity, integrity, anonymity, audit-ability and accountability are all involved, and many of these requirements often lack in the voting process. The enormous problems associated with computer operating systems raise serious issues, in terms of concealed hackers, trackers, viruses, Trojan horses, worms, and other downloads by the user waiting to attack on the day of elections (Science Flashes, 2009). A solution would be to create a fresh system in order to vote, but even such an approach does not entirely eliminate these potential risks.
This year’s election saw the participation of numerous political candidates but the two who stood out were Barbara boxer and Carly Fiorina. The two candidates had web sites where supporters could access the main site and interact with the candidates and basically acquire more information concerning them as the candidate and the plans and visions that the candidates had for the citizens. The first basic similarities between the two candidates websites’ is that they were both easy to find, easy to read, they both provided basic information regarding the candidates such as both are relatively seasoned politicians that are running for senator of California. Both their sites show that they are making major promises to address and many issues and that both candidates have a clear purpose on what each aims to accomplish.
The websites do have a number of notable differences, these include; while the Boxer website was mostly with blue slogans in line with the Democrat theme color, the Fiorina party had a red theme to its website, also in line with the Republican theme colors. Boxers website was mainly pro-life with texts and illustrations demonstrating Boxer’s political goals while Fiorina’s was a more conservative and laid back and mostly focused on illustrating economic issues that she planned to address in her political careers (Fiorina, 2009). Both these candidates leveraged these sites in gaining more supporters and gunning more votes. Boxer was smart whereby she used Facebook and Twitter to express his views and this led to her having even more supporters than expected. Her ‘friends list’ was overflowing with fans and supporters situated not only in America but all around the globe (Boxer, 2010).
Apart from these networking sites, the candidate’s individual sites had avenues where supporters could create accounts and all access to information, pictures and links provided by the site administrator. Going by the enormous freedom that supporters of the candidates were given, it was not uncommon to hear tales of supporters pledging large amount of cash to assist the two candidates in their election campaigns or to hear of unauthorized web access by complete strangers therefore various checks and balances were put in place to ensure that these two candidates’ sites maintained their authenticity and integrity.
The growth of the World Wide Web provides site owners such as Boxer and Fiorina with various political opportunities everyday. Unlike before, the web makes the dream of discussing politics on a global level a reality for large and small politicians alike. Unfortunately, that advancement also attracts people with less than noble intentions in mind. When it comes to internet files and sensitive data consumers pass along, lack of proper internet security can lead to tampering, damage or theft, and the integrity of the candidate compromised (Rivest, 2010). When protection of the server and a web is neglected, billions of dollars as well as candidate identities and information are put in jeopardy. With that in mind, it's easy to make the assumption that internet security is a fundamental component of the success of any web based organization. Consumers are wary enough to be mindful of sites they feel aren't safe or organizations that do not seem enthusiastic to do what it take to protect their identity and personal information from hackers and trackers. Simply saying that you have adequate internet security and checks in place is not enough these days. Proving that your political party values and respects both supporters and their information takes action.
As discussed earlier, it is important that any process transacted across the net, even election polls, be adequately sealed and protected, in order to preserve the process’ integrity. It is not unlikely that individuals, without any voter privileges cast countless votes without being discovered by any detectors within the voting central software. Furthermore, it is known that even the most dangerous of outsider attacks could have been discovered and executed without access to the terminal code. In the face of such situations, the usual worries about insider threats are not the only concerns; outsiders can mount the attacks. All in all, the insider threat is also quite fundamental, showing that not only can an insider, such as a poll worker, alter the results, but that insiders can also violate voter privacy.
The method where individual vendors write source codes to tally our elections appears to be unsafe and if we do not change the process of authenticating our voting systems, we will have no confidence that US election results will reflect the views of the voters (Rivest,2010). We owe it to ourselves, our country and our future generations to have secure, well-designed election systems to preserve the very foundations of our democracy. Internet security and testing is an important part of the success of a website. Placing safety a priority is crucial to the sites credibility as well as the protection of the candidates and voters. Understanding these facts and taking necessary steps to effectively implement web security practices can mean the dream of increased policy and vision sharing. It is important that the voter, the candidate and the entire electoral process becomes a part of that elusive dream.
Carly Fiorina Enterprises,2009. Retrieved Nov 20,2010 from http://www.carlyfiorina.com/
Rivest,L,R.Electronic Voting. Nov 20, 2010 from people.csail.mit.edu/rivest/Rivest-ElectronicVoting.pdf
Science Flashes, 2009.Retreived Nov 20, 2010 from http://science4umore.blogspot.com/2009/08/understanding-internet-security-threats.html
US Senator: Barbara Boxer California. Retrieved Nov 20, 2010 from http://boxer.senate.gov/
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