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Paper Mail Voting vs. Electronic Voting. Is there a better solution?

September 28th, 2012

As a voter, what makes you feel more secure? A physical, paper ballot system, where you check off your answers and see your choice go into a box, or an electronic system, where a count can be determined quickly and efficiently? With election season in full swing, we’ll take a look at the pros and cons of each voting system.

Convenience or reliability? These are the two sides of thought battling in the paper versus electronic debate.

Many college students and military personnel cast their votes via absentee ballots. In 2010 over 200,000 military ballots were not counted because the mail service could not get them to the voters in time or the ballots were not returned on time. Mail to remote locations can take almost three weeks to get back and forth. The extra time spent and deadlines are a cause for concern.

The other issue with paper ballots is simply the amount of ballots to count. There are over 7,800 electoral jurisdictions and numerous polling places within each. The popular vote takes much more time to announce when tallying the votes this way.

However, there is a downside to electronic voting as well. While convenient and easily accessible to millions (just think, it could be as easy as pressing a button on a smartphone app), security issues are a major concern. Hackers can easily get into any system changing the possible outcomes of an election.

In addition to hackers, software is known to malfunction. In March, votes were sent to the wrong candidate from faulty electronic voting machines in Palm Beach County, Fla. Sometimes votes just disappear. Technology, while helpful, is not always perfect.

Neither method provides us with the solutions needed to run a flawless election. However, using them both together may be our best bet. If you are one of the 25 states currently using electronic voting machines, make sure you have a paper ballot backup.  For those voters that we simply cannot reach in time, such as the military out to sea, or students studying abroad, give absentee voters an electronic option also with a paper backup. If our national voting system is replaced with all electronic machines, it will require round-the-clock monitoring for hackers, viruses and infiltrators. Private networks will have to be used to transmit election results.

Each system has its pros and cons, but if the system is restructured with a proper balance of the two, voting systems can prove more efficient and secure for everyone.

Can engineers develop a secure alternative system? Contact The Talley Group for the best positions in engineering.

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