October 31st, 2014
Episode 83 of 250 episodes
Next Tuesday Americans across the country will participate in one of the most basic civic duties: voting. For many, that means taking time off work, driving to a designated polling place and casting their ballot through standalone voting machines. But what if the process of voting could be vastly different? Today we can do almost anything on the Internet from banking to ordering take-out, so it only feels natural that we should be able to vote that way too. In this week’s podcast, host Andrea Seabrook and Decode DC reporter Miranda Green delve into the benefits and road blocks to online voting and try to see into the future of elections. Not all elections experts think going online is a great idea. But Thad Hall, a professor of political science at the University of Utah, is ready. “You know it’s kind of the ultimate easy, convenient way to vote. And I don’t have to have a piece of paper, I don’t have to mail it back, I can send my ballot instantaneously. If Hurricane Sandy comes, I don’t have to worry about voting because I can just vote from my phone or I can vote from a computer somewhere.” But then there are the naysayers, many of them statisticians and engineers who think the Internet is too insecure for such a sacred thing as voting. Alex Halderman, a professor at the University of Michigan puts it this way, “I think most people like 100 percent accuracy in voting. The problem with voting with computer technology is [hackers] can change the election result to be whatever they wanted.” There are even those who believe electronic voting booths should be done away with, that what America needs is good old paper voting. Ronald Rivest, a professor at MIT says,“The high level goal is to not to just get the right vote count but one that’s provably right. Now here I am at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology a fan of paper, but when you deal with security for a long time, you find that simpler is often better.” So when it comes to the future of voting, the crystal ball is cloudy. Some say it’s only a matter of time before Americans demand online voting, especially as younger digital-natives start voting in larger numbers. And to be sure, voting is already changing in the U.S. Not only are more states allowing mail-in ballots and early voting but one of the biggest election-tech companies is piloting ways to thread the needle between the security of paper ballots and the convenience of voting online. Want to keep up with all the latest DecodeDC stories and podcasts? Sign up for our weekly newsletter at decodedc.com/newsletter.