Utne Blogs > Politics

Cryptographic Technology for a More Certain Vote

 by Julie Hanus


Tags: Politics, Election 2008, Technology Review, Norm Coleman, Al Franken, voting, voters rights,

Zoinks! Until recently, it’s been all too easy to dismiss cryptographic voting technology—i.e. systems where voters reveal hidden codes that enable them to confirm their votes—as a wonky pipe dream, reports Technology Review. But now, there’s a new system designed to work with the optical ballot-counting scanners already in use.

This is how it works: I go to my neighborhood polling place and fill out a ballot per usual. But I use a special pen, which reveals a secret code inside of any bubble I mark. I think, “Damn. This is just like something Q would’ve dreamed up for James Bond.” My ballot has a number, so I make a note of these codes for myself—and then later, go online and make sure that my ballot number and confidential codes match up. Voila!

Imagine what such a system would have done in Minnesota, where the Norm Coleman vs. Al Franken Senate race recount, flush with contested ballots, is still pending a month after votes were cast. Minnesota Public Radio has been posting a sample of the contested ballots online; some of the votes seem so clearly intended for a particular candidate that it’s left me wondering just how many mistakes do slip through. With a cryptographic system, voters could be their own election judges.