Election Security: How to Protect Online Voting

Published 08/14/2019 by YesElections

Election security has become a hot topic in recent years, prompting public agencies to refocus efforts at securing voting systems. 

This heightened awareness around local election systems and equipment comes amid greater calls for online voting, particularly as a way to boost voter turnout. 

While these conversations have received mostly tepid support if we’re being generous, private organizations have hosted internal elections over the internet for years, and rave about the benefits. This is largely due to the efforts of election management agencies, which have invested heavily in bolstering online voting and improving security. In a way, these election vendors have been at the forefront of ensuring online voting is both reliable and secure. 

Yet when it comes to security for member-based elections, the conversations rarely center around malicious attacks from foreign entities or basement-dwelling hackers. 

Member-based groups are less concerned with sophisticated malware than more practical measures, such as ensuring elections go off without a hitch, votes are counted properly, and support is provided to address technical questions. 

So, how can an election vendor protect online voting? 

Security features vary depending on who’s managing an election, but in many cases these include single-vote verification, secure nomination and election sites, ballot tracking, and data privacy. There are also the protections that go a long way to preserving election integrity, such as real-time monitoring, firewalls, back-up generators, and precautions for “main server” failures. 

Organizations are understandably sensitive to concerns about voting mistakes. Working with a dedicated election vendor can prevent such errors, while improving overall online voting security. 

In essence, while the general public and lawmakers may be concerned about vote manipulation, member-based groups historically care more about ensuring the integrity of an election is maintained—and that’s especially the case for online voting. 

 

Here are several common features that ensure online voting is safe and secure: 

SINGLE-VOTE VERIFICATION 

Single-vote verification is technical speak for preventing duplicate votes. 

When election season rolls around, member-based groups have plenty on their plates in addition to ensuring a smooth contest. Undue anxiety regarding secure vote tabulations can be avoided if eligible voters are properly cross referenced with actual participants. 

How does single-vote verification work? In practice, an election specialist would be able to see if an online ballot was processed. Once they have the name of the voting member, they’ll cross that person off their formal list of eligible voters. As soon as that person has been marked as having voted, any subsequent vote from them—albeit very rare—won’t be counted. 

Such verification programs are the hallmarks of any secure election system. 

SECURE NOMINATIONS & BALLOTS 

A secure site where members can select potential candidates and vote without any apprehension is key to any successful election experience. 

A vendor who has invested in properly configuring nomination and ballot sites should be able to protect data and prevent malicious attacks. 

When it comes to the nomination process, it’s critical members have access to a secure site, since they’ll be inputting biographical information and potentially uploading images. 

The same goes for voting pages. Again, depending on the vendor, your organization might have access to a secure site connected to a member’s portal—effectively enabling them to fill out an online ballot directly within your group’s existing ecosystem. Hosting elections on a third-party site, typically via a secure network, is another option. 

BALLOT TRACKING

This feature is exactly as it sounds: Internet elections have an added layer of security with ballot tracking, which facilitates real-time voting monitoring by election specialists. This means they will be alerted at the exact moment a vote has successfully been processed. 

Among other benefits, while also tracking actual votes, specialists have access to open and click rates for online ballots, giving your group an accurate reading of voter turnout during the election. 

As aforementioned, member-based groups have a broad definition of election security. Something as simple as following voting in real time actually provides a huge relief to groups who want to ensure elections are operating properly. 

24/7 MONITORING 

All major events are prone to disruption. Let’s take Super Bowl XLVII, for instance. The high-stakes game between the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens in 2013 was interrupted by a power outage that knocked out electricity to the hosting Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans. It seems incomprehensible that with millions of dollars invested in security and infrastructure, an event of this scale would be interrupted by something as simple as an outage.

Yet, it happened. 

This simply demonstrates anything is possible. While exceedingly rare, mistakes and/or technical problems do occur during elections. It’s always helpful, therefore, to have support staff onsite or available via a quick phone call to resolve any unforeseeable issues. With 24/7 monitoring, election staffers can answer any and all questions about voting, potential network disruptions, or anything out of the ordinary. 

DATA PRIVACY

Whether in your personal or professional life, data privacy is hugely important.

The same goes for elections. Member-based groups make a point of protecting constituent data. A reliable election vendor should therefore be transparent about the collection of personal information. When interviewing potential election management agencies, don’t forget to ask if they share data with third-party groups. (Hint: The answer should be a forceful “No.”) Member lists should be used exclusively for elections, and nothing else.

TAKEAWAY

Elections are crucial exercises in democracy for member-based organizations, therefore it’s critical security and data protection be taken seriously. It’s likewise vital that groups are able to conduct these contests over secure sites, knowing votes will be accurately tallied, personal information kept under lock and key, and 24/7 monitoring included, among other necessities. Your members take elections seriously, so it’s imperative that security is foremost on your mind, too. 


YesElections has managed elections throughout the United States for more than a decade. Our investment in state-of-the-art security makes us one of the most reliable election management agencies in the nation. To learn more about how YesElections can help your organization, request a free consultation, today.

Topics: Election Optimization, voting security, Online Voting

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