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Where We Might Go

In voting, as in other parts of our lives, technology is a two-edged sword.

Cryptographic means can be used to help with voter authentication. We need to watch carefully to make certain that laws passed to keep cryptographic tools out of the hands of criminals and terrorists do not prevent their use for elections (and electronic commerce). A digital signature for each registered voter would provide assurance that the voter was entitled to vote, and that the voter cast only one ballot. However, careful implementation would be needed to make sure that those who are not technically savvy would be either prevented from voting by lack of ability to use the tools or by using them incorrectly. It is important not to exclude training and to remember that good ergonomic design will be important. One solution could issue digital certificates at the time of online voter registration. Then, however, it would be necessary to ensure that the signatures were not too easy to lose, damage, or misplace, that they could not be sold or bargained away, and that they would be available to the correct voter at the time of the election. The registration process would require continued vigilance to make sure that each eligible person got one and only one digital signature, that the person who requested and received the digital signature existed and is a citizen (no dead people voting), and that there was a secure and fair process to cope when the citizen had trouble or misplaced the digital signature. As now, it is important to prevent systematic disenfranchisement.


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