Larry Moore founded a federally certified voting system that processes 75% of the paper ballots in the states of Washington and Oregon. But now, he believes it is vital that America talk about digital voting.
Everything you have heard about digital voting is wrong – if you have heard anything at all.
This year’s crises – COVID-19, slowdowns in mail delivery, a host of natural disasters, and a disinformation blizzard – have exposed deep fault lines in America’s elections. These problems affect a broad swath of Americans, especially voters with disabilities and those most vulnerable to voter suppression.
The U.S. leads the world in technological innovation but there has been shockingly little discussion about how technology, specifically digital voting, can mitigate the real threats to our elections.
Why? For nearly two decades, critics have misleadingly framed digital voting as an “either/or”: it is either secure or it’s insecure. In truth, security exists on a spectrum – not as an either/or. Experts will tell you that security is not a destination; it is a journey requiring vigilance against ever-evolving threats.
A simple argument shows the folly of thinking of security as a static state: no system can truly claim to be secure against an unknown threat. How could it?
Every system has vulnerabilities. If vulnerabilities were disqualifying, as digital voting critics would have it, we would have no voting systems at all. Modern technology can and should be harnessed to improve the way citizens of all abilities establish their identity as registered voters, receive, mark, and submit their ballot – and confirm that it was faithfully recorded as they intended.
Yet digital voting critics argue that paper ballots are secure. But paper ballots are lost, delayed, erroneously rejected, and even discredited. They are vulnerable to human errors and human malice, as well as natural disasters and bad luck. And if you were horrified by hanging chads in the 2000 presidential election, just wait until the battles erupt over signature-matching in mail-in paper ballots.
Despite these flaws and vulnerabilities, which in every election result in the rejection of a significant number of legally cast ballots, no one suggests abandoning paper ballots. But for two decades, that is precisely what critics have demanded of digital voting: Do not consider it, do not talk about it, and try to stop pilot elections administered by responsible election officials.
Critics say that voting is too important to involve modern technology. They have it backward. Elections are so vital that it is foolhardy to renounce the use of our most powerful technological tools.
We should approach improving the voting process in the same common-sense way Americans have solved problems throughout their history: Try new approaches, find the problems, and fix them with available technology tools while continuing to invent new ones.
Allowing voters the option of digital voting has clear and compelling advantages. Access: Ballots can be instantly delivered, privately and accessibly marked, and returned safely and speedily. Confidence: Once submitted, voters can receive near-instantaneous confirmation that the ballot was received and recorded as intended. Safety: No need to expose oneself to the risk of infection. For many voters with disabilities, deployed military voters, and civilians residing abroad, digital voting is the ONLY mechanism that will allow them to vote reliably, accessibly, privately, and independently.
The technologies to mitigate the threat of hacking are available now. Digital voting is being used in states like West Virginia, Utah, Maine, North Carolina, Virginia, and Oregon. Two decades of steady progress in security and identity verification have given us the wherewithal to conduct financial transactions, transmit sensitive health information, and to protect America’s critical infrastructure industries – all digitally and all over the Internet.
For the sake of all voters, the two-decades-long debate that has pitted the fear of loss of ballot security against the certainty of convenient ballot access must end. Too much is at stake. Turnout is poor: Many of 100 million eligible voters that do not vote are young and technically literate. The U.S. electorate is changing. While seniors, America’s most active voters, are growing as a percentage of the electorate, voters with disabilities are growing at an even faster rate.
By starting now and allowing it to mature, digital voting can become a powerful option that could address nearly every problem posed for in-person voting – inconvenience, long lines, inclement weather and safety issues – and, for remote voting, ensuring the statutory right to an accessible, private and independent voting experience. It would enable all voters, including the most vulnerable among us, the opportunity to participate fully in the electoral process. Twenty-first century American voters deserve this option.
About the Author: Larry Moore is the founder and retired CEO of the Clear Ballot Group, the first company to federally certify a new voting system in over ten years.