Skip to main content

Voting Technology and Security

Computer scientists, cryptologists, statisticians and other experts share a number of concerns about voting technology, election security, and the verifiability of election results.

After the Help America Vote Act passed in 2002, more states adopted electronic voting equipment. But computer scientists warn that the more removed the voter is from the ballot through an electronic interface -- the greater the risk.

In 2017, the Department of Homeland Security designated US election systems part of the nation’s critical infrastructure to better provide cybersecurity assistance.

Paper ballots remain the most common voting method in the United States but there are increasing calls to allow people to vote online.

How can we best ensure the integrity of elections? How can security concerns be balanced with the needs of citizens?

The evidence tells us that no technology yet guarantees the security and secrecy of Internet voting. Human-readable paper ballots not only offer the most security, they can be examined, recounted and audited.

In 2018, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine issued a report, Securing the Vote: Protecting American Democracy, that recommends ways to improve the security of U.S. election infrastructure. Among the recommendations is that states mandate audits prior to the certification of election results.

Audits can provide statistical evidence of whether a vote result is inaccurate with a high level of confidence and they are far less expensive and resource-intensive than recounts. Colorado was the first state to implement risk-limiting audits statewide, Rhode Island requires them by 2020 and there are a number of pilot projects in other states.

Last year AAAS and its Social, Economic and Political Sciences, and Information, Computing and Communication sections issued statements on the importance of auditable paper trails.

As local officials and states prepare for 2020 elections, the scientific evidence indicates a number of ways we can improve election security and confidence.