Accuracy And Efficiency In Voting Systems? Everyone Secretly Say "Aye"
Tired of the endless debates about who voted for who and in what quantities, and burned out from watching endless hours of pre-election, election and finally post-election party coverage, researchers at the Universities of Surrey, Birmingham and Luxembourg have joined forced to create a Vote-o-Tron that can not only use paper ballots, but accurately count them.
Despite the prevalence of technology in the everyday lives of the voting public, many are concerned with trusting their democratic right to a machine. They fear inaccurate or tampered-with results, and are also unsure of their own ability to correctly use the technology presented. Enter the electoral minds of our intrepid researchers, backed by funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.
Working off of a concept originally developed by Professor Peter Ryan, now of the University of Luxembourg, the team hopes to develop a vote counting machine that will support traditional paper-ballot technology combined with optical scanning and encryption. The idea is fairly simple - a traditional ballot is cast, but with a randomized list of candidates instead of a standardized one. The ballot will contain a perforation in the middle, allowing the list of candidates to be separated from the voting boxes. When a selection has been made, the voter tears the paper in half and shreds the left half in a shredder conveniently provided.
The right half is fed through a scanner which records the data and returns the half-ballot, which is kept by our dedicated voter. A network of encrypted processors then tallies the votes cast. The kept ballot can be used to access a secure website where, with a serial number written on the ballot, the voter can access the image the scanner took of their ballot as well as seeing which candidate they chose. The hope is to eliminate the difficulties involved in lost, misplaced, or poorly filled-out paper ballots, while retaining the speed and efficiency of an electronic system.
It certainly has potential. With issues surrounding almost every election in North America, to say nothing of the world at large, a system that eliminates human stupidity and government corruption in one fell swoop is something we could certainly get behind. There would still be a number of problematic issues to overcome, such as control of the shredding machines and shredding waste, along with tampering by those who have knowledge of or access to the database of stored voting data.
Still, it's a step in the right direction and is not far off from being field tested, likely in a mayoral election within the next four years. While it certainly won't encourage those already too lazy to vote to get up, it will hopefully mean that those civic-minded enough to do so don't get punished.