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E-Voter In a Swing State

When I arrived at the polls at 6 a.m. this morning, those of us at the head of the line watched nervously as election officials frantically tried to calibrate my small town's two e-voting machines after they malfunctioned -- just before the first voters were about to cast their votes.
When I arrived at the polls at 6 a.m. this morning, those of us at the head of the line watched nervously as election officials frantically tried to calibrate my small town's two e-voting machines after they malfunctioned -- just before the first voters were about to cast their votes.The delay was only a few minutes, but I got to see firsthand just how fragile e-voting systems can be. My home state of Virginia -- which for the first time in more than 40 years is actually a swing state in a presidential election, making the glitch this morning even more profound -- is actually planning to phase out these touch-screen systems and revert to paper ballots. Paper ballots! After my county only just recently upgraded from tabulation machines. But this retro-voting method is actually safer and more accurate (when used in tandem with an optical scanning system, of course). There's something quaint about the concept of putting pencil to paper these days. But with demonstrated vulnerabilities of e-voting systems increasing, and voter suppression on the rise along with the number of registered new voters, it makes sense to have a paper backup. The e-voting systems here in Virginia and neighboring Maryland don't actually print out a copy of your vote to ensure it was recorded properly. So reverting back to paper and optical scans would give voters here for the first time a "receipt," as one of my neighbors so colorfully described the printouts while we waited in line this morning to touch the screen.

Still, to many voters it seems backward to replace new technology for a standby. Touch-screens are the way we bank at the ATM and order sandwiches at Sheetz. But those of us who are well-aware of the potential hacking threat of e-voting systems are just relieved that our vote has a better chance of being counted, even if it means going retro.

- Kelly Jackson Higgins, Senior Editor, Dark Reading