Democracy, Voting and Mail-In Ballots: Assessing Technology’s Role in the Election Process

Tags: Currents Elections, Elections 2020, Media, President Trump, President-Elect Joe Biden, Voting, World News

Currents News Staff

With Georgia recounting ballots by hand and a climate rife with claims of voter irregularities and fraud, the accuracy of computer election technology is once again under the microscope.

 President Trump says, “this is a fraud on the American public,” while President-Elect Joe Biden says it’s “more embarrassing for the country than debilitating.”

 Not since the 2000 presidential election has a fight for the White House caused such a stir. The controversy “back then” led to computerized voting systems that are creating problems now.

 “The introduction of computers into the process of casting and counting ballots introduced a level of vulnerable technology that is easily, that can easily be compromised,” explained Co-Founder of Open Source Election Technology Gregory Miller,  “so that doesn’t do anything to engender trust.”

 Issues like reprogramming machines remotely or inserting fraudulent media cards or even hacking into vote scanners while using wireless modems to connect to the internet, has researchers debating how to fix such a huge and largely unregulated problem. Gregory thinks those problems extend to the companies who produce our election systems too.

 “Today we have three vendors in the United States who own 90 percent of America’s voting infrastructure,” he added.

Those companies – Election Systems and Software, Hart InterCivic and Dominion Voting Systems – are privately owned and bristle at any sort of governmental oversight. That leads to arguing that their software is proprietary and therefore off-limits to election officials and computer scientists looking for flaws and potential security risks. That, Gregory says, is putting our election infrastructure in a dire state.

“This is an industry that is entirely proprietary, a great deal of opacity,” he noted, “that is no transparency in what they’re actually producing. And yet our critical democracy infrastructure depends upon those three vendors.”

One of those vendors, Dominion is under intense scrutiny. The Trump campaign alleges that their machines switched votes from the president to Joe Biden.

 No evidence has emerged so far to support that claim, but flaws in the process are real.

 “No machinery is infallible,” Gregory reminds. “No technology is perfect. Mistakes, glitches do happen. But there’s been no evidence to this point that any machinery has been maliciously or nefariously compromised or altered.”

Equipment problems coupled with a record shattering 65-million mail in ballots, according to Pew Research. Rules on how to count them vary from state to state, also playing a role in this year’s election controversy. 

Gregory predicts the intense scrutiny will force lawmakers to look at restoring credibility into a process central to our Democracy. 

“We need to step back and stop triage financing and start really systemically financing the innovation necessary to get us more verifiable, accurate, secure and transparent equipment,” he said. “It needs to be completely redesigned and rethought as if it were truly a national security asset.”

According to experts, those are urgently needed solutions that could be implemented by the next presidential cycle, as another highly contested race sheds light on the cracks in our election system.