Takoma Park has never been a city to shy away from trying something new. The small Maryland city is a nuclear-free zone. Non-citizen legal immigrants are allowed to vote in local elections and the city operates its own compost recycling program and silo for corn-burning stoves.
It’s ready to take the plunge into voting technology as well. Takoma Park is experimenting with online voting, hoping to pave the way for use in elections. A small group of students, led by George Washington University computer science professor Poorvi Vora, spearheaded a test for online absentee voting in Takoma Park in partnership with Scantegrity and Remotegrity.
On a blistering hot day in this suburb of Washington, D.C,, 16 people participated in the trial of the system, using computers within the cool confines of the city’s Community Center.
The test was aimed at gauging user response to online voting instructions and the usability of the system interface. The test was based on Scantegrity’s system previously used in the city’s 2009 elections.
Under the system, an absentee voter would receive a package at home with two envelopes. In one envelope there would be a sealed paper ballot which the voter could fill out and mail in as is traditionally done.
Should an absentee voter choose to vote online, the second envelope would contain scratch-off codes which correspond to the voter’s ballot. Using those codes, the voter would visit a website and follow stepby-step instructions and complete their absentee ballot online.
After casting their vote, absentee voters would then visit another website to verify their vote with codes assigned to candidates on their physical copy of the ballot. From there, they can “lock in” their vote or override their vote via scratch-off code if they see an error.
Those participating in the test were provided with a package identical to what they would receive at home should they wish to vote absentee.
Each trial participant — many of whom were senior citizens who had been participating in an art class in another part of the facility — was asked to complete two surveys following the test.
According to Vora, they received positive feedback, though some participants did ask about the security of the approach.
One tester, Mary said “it was easy to use, but the paper instructions were somewhat confusing.” Another called the trial “a great idea” and said that she was “pleased to be taking part.”
“Right now, things are looking promising, however more testing is needed,” said Takoma Park City Clerk Jessie Carpenter.
Full Article: Electionline Weekly