Is Online Voting Coming?

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Earlier in the year of 2018, the Secretary of State for West Virginia, Mac Warner, suggested the implementation of Voatz, a startup created in 2014 whose aim was to convert online and mobile voting into a reality. Warner hopes to lift the voting turnouts for the 2018 midterm elections, which was at a shocking 56% for the entire nation (source). He has suggested the state to attempt implementation, and in a recent survey, 24 of 55 available counties agreed to proceed in implementation before the midterm elections.

Despite these notices of “positive progress” many argue that it is a terrible idea to implement mobile voting apps. Eric Hodge, director of election security services at CyberScout, warned that “If we haven’t assured the voter that their vote is going to be protected, that’s a big problem as actually being a risk.” Many others voiced their negative opinions on the topic, which included Joseph Lorenzo Hall, chief technologist at the Center for Democracy and Technology. He explained how within 20 years electronic ballots and identities could be exposed, hurting the privacy and lives of those who used the service.

An article published by TechCrunch in April of this year completely dismissed and warned users and officials to stay away from this project (source). Their article explained how online voting was not a simple task of making a checklist of security measures, but a continuous job of revising and updating security measures to fend off even the most skilled hackers. Not only this, the topic at stake would be too valuable to risk getting exposed and manipulated by hackers, after all, this would be a national issue regarding the selection of the next United States President. They even alluded to mocking tweets and comics expressing the danger of online voting, saying it was one of the worst ideas they have heard, and that these options shouldn’t even be considered in the first place.

Eric Carson, the author of the CNET article maintained a positive attitude throughout the article, discussing the potentials and opportunities brought by new apps such as Voatz. Nevertheless, it concluded with a negative tone, explaining that “paper is hard to beat,” and that digital forms of saving data was too risky and possibly dangerous for people voting with these apps. There was a tone of concern, warning people about the dangers of implementing the technology in a rushed, or not well-prepared state. A simple breach in security could condemn the technology forever, and public opinion could drop, possibly killing the app. In short, there is hope to make new opportunities, in which people could vote through freely, but rushing the implementation will not help the widespread use, there has to be testing and security experiments before any part of this project is deemed secure from outer attacks.

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