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Why Can’t We Vote Online?

We file our tax returns online. Our Social Security system is online. Businesses and financial institutions transfer billions of dollars online every day. Why can’t we vote online?

I know this is a politically charged issue, but we need to look at online voting to make our elections more accessible and more efficient. I say this as we wait for six states to reach a result, including Georgia, where my in-laws live, and neighboring Pennsylvania. We’re not complaining about the time-consuming, labor-intensive process required to count every vote, but it has given us time to think about how we can make the process better.

I’m casting a vote for online voting, and I am highly confident the many disciplines that make up our technology industry can make it happen. I know that fraud is a major concern, and while some may have overblown concerns, fraud is a valid worry. However, the industry does a good job of minimizing it.

On the personal level, we’ve already mentioned that we file our tax returns online – federal and state. Those who are part of Medicare and receive Social Security benefits can complete all transactions online, including paying their premiums and receiving their benefits by direct deposit. We can file for unemployment benefits online, access our medical records online and even re-enter the country using apps such as Global Entry, which relies on biometrics, and Mobile Pass, which relies on info accessed from a smart phone.

Businesses use all sorts of online systems to transfer money safely and securely. While government elections are sacred – as well they should be – there’s a lot of money at stake when companies and banks send billions of dollars through millions of transactions every day. When breakdowns occur, they can generally be traced back to the exploitation of someone’s sloppiness or ignorance. We know that one country’s government can have an interest in affecting another country’s government, but there’s a far larger universe of hackers looking for ways to get their hands on someone else’s money. There are more ways for them to access and monetize someone’s sensitive health information.

Therefore, if we focus just on elections, I believe we should be able to make those systems safe and secure. We have the tools in place; we just need to refine them and make them stronger. We constantly refine and strengthen tools as a general practice, so it’s not like we’re looking for something completely new.

We can also make better, more extensive use of two-factor authentication – as well as increased biometrics and other forms of password-replacement technology that can make our entire internet experience more secure.

Artificial intelligence (AI) and signature verification software has been used for years. We have systems for providing electronic signatures for financial transactions great and small. Why not apply this technology to elections? Technology can be used to verify or update many a person’s residence. We have driver’s license information and utility bills online, for example. When we change addresses, that information changes – and is recorded. In many states, we are automatically registered to vote or can register to vote when we get or renew driver’s licenses.

We have the technology to coordinate all this information. What we need now is the will to do it. Our COVID crisis has forced us to take long, hard looks at new ways of doing things we’ve always done. New processes and procedures are likely to stay as we emerge from the pandemic (we will at some point), and voting is one of them. States expanded early voting and mail-in or absentee voting to avoid larger lines and longer waits in crowded places. The overwhelming response likely means we’re not going back on that.

Going forward with online voting will require governments at all levels to change laws and requirements, and that won’t be easy. There’s a lot of passion and fears when it comes to politics and elections. The technology industry, too, will need to prove it can – beyond any doubt – provide a secure platform to hold elections.

But we, too, as individuals, will need to step up our game. We’ll need to make sure that our individual systems are secure by keeping our network and device firewalls, antivirus and malware software up to date and installed. We’ll need to make sure we have the latest operating systems – with security patches – installed, and the same goes for all the apps we use.

Online voting may not be the right option for everyone. We just think it’s time to add it to the other options already available.

And regardless of whether we have online voting, you should still take all the steps that are needed to keep your networks and devices safe and secure. If you have any questions, we can help. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us to discuss your online security needs – and talk about how we can promote effective online voting.