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Posted: October 29th, 2022

Role of computer technology on 2018 midterm election

Role of computer technology on 2018 midterm election
Open statement
The application of computer technology in the electoral process has elicited both interest and concern among the electorate, and professionals across the world. Currently, a majority of the electoral body managements around the globe utilize computer technologies with the purpose of enhancing the electoral process (Bernhard et al. 34). The same can be said about the just recently concluded 2018 midterm elections. The elections revolved around computer technology ranging from the use electronic poll books, geographic information systems, election management systems, spreadsheets, and other software and hardware to serve the electorate and the administrators of the election. This paper seeks to explore the role of computer technology on 2018 midterm elections by describing the software and the hardware used, the security risks associated with the technology, and the ethical and social implications.
Software was mainly utilized to operate the voting systems in the midterm elections that occurred a few weeks ago. Notably, the software was mainly proprietary meaning that it was marketed under and guarded by a trade name that is registered. The software which was installed in the voting systems ran on an operating system referred to as a commercial off-the-shelf OS, which is also proprietary (White 78). People tasked with the duty of overseeing the operations of an election usually take numerous factors into consideration when buying voting systems. For instance, jurisdictions normally enter into software licensing and maintenance contracts with the suppliers. The supplier maintains and offers software support for the system of election. In the just concluded elections, commercial vendors who were contracted to provide software to facilitate e-voting also supplied the electronic ballot definitions that made it possible for the voting equipment to print, scan, and organize the election-specific ballots for voters (White 81). The elections also saw some voters using applications installed in their phones/laptops to vote for their favorite candidates. Sick people and those who experienced difficulties travelling to their respective voting stations found voting through the apps to be more convenient.
The application of software in the various election processes has led to the rise of a movement by several election administrators. The administrators argue that software provided by private companies prevents transparency in the election process as it restricts public inspection. As such, they propose the development or the adoption of licensed software that is owned by the public and is obtainable in source code form, providing room for the source code to be assessed, adjusted and dispensed without restriction (Carr et al. 57).
The 2018 midterm elections made use of hardware as well. As such, it applied the use of electronic voting technology. For instance, direct recording electronic voting machines were utilized in various states across the country. This machine works by recording votes using ballot display provided with mechanical elements that the voter can activate (using buttons or the screen). Optical scan voting machines were utilized as well, and they served the purpose of counting paper ballots (White 56). Telephones and computers were utilized to transmit ballots. Public network DRE voting systems were also used. They mainly applied the utilization of electronic ballots and broadcasted votes from one polling station to another over a public network. The use of electronic pollbooks (e-pollbook) was rampant during this election period. The hardware helped the election officials to evaluate as well as maintain the information of voters.
Security threats
Elections that apply the use of computer technology are usually susceptible to cyberattacks; this also applied to the midterm elections. There was always that risk of the contents of the voter registration database being changed. Attacks aimed at changing voter registration data could be utilized to instigate phony or illegal voters, to remove legitimate voters from the voter registration database (de Bruijn, and Marijn 3). Even if the registration database was sensibly guarded, the use of online portals posed substantial cybersecurity threats; the portals which provided the voters with the opportunity to revise their registration information provided an entry point for data alteration.
The use of computer technology in the midterm elections also exposed the whole process to an attack referred to as the Denial-of-service (DoS). This type of attack disrupts or drags access to computer systems, interrupting voter tallying, or election audits being conducted by election officials (de Bruijn, and Marijn 4). DoS attacks often cause loss of confidence in the entire integrity of the election. Malware encompassing viruses, Trojan horses and spyware were perhaps the biggest security threat to the just concluded elections. Since the elections applied the use of electronic voting, there was always that risk of malware being introduced at any juncture in the vote’s electronic path. The malware also had the potential of interrupting e-pollbooks, interrupting correct tallying by changing electronic ballots, and making software to count physical or electronic ballots incorrectly. Unfortunately, malware cannot be detected easily, and therefore, it could easily be introduced into the electoral system without anyone detecting it resulting in devastating consequences for the entire election (Sehgal et al. 260). Since part of the electorate voted on online platforms, the election systems were highly exposed to security threats. As such, the telephone and the internet networks were greatly susceptible to attacks by hackers.
Ethical and social implications
Use of computer technology serves to influence trust in the election in one way or another as evidenced in the mid-term elections. Trust is essential for election systems. Aside from economic prerequisites, most prerequisites for electronic voting frameworks are related to trust. They are supposed to be safe (precise; only valid voters take part, and vote only once; guarded against mistakes and fraud), guard voter privacy and be verifiable (a process characterized by transparency, and votes can be recounted). Conventional voting that is based on use of ballot papers in polling stations usually meets these requirements, i.e., it allows transparency, and majority of the citizens support it (Hollyer, Peter, and James 18).
On the contrary, using computer technology such as electronic voting systems erodes transparency for the user, as the stages involved in information processing cannot be observed. With these technology based systems, the confidence of the electorate on the elections is dependent on the trust they have in the election organizers and in the experts of the technology solutions instead on a procedure that is transparent. The confidence of the public in the way in which ballot counting is conducted is primary to the authenticity of the electoral process. Again, e-voting does not inspire much confidence and this can be attributed to the security threats that mar the process. Moreover, public confidence in the voting process is dependent on the ability of the process to maintain secrecy. Electronic and online voting does not guarantee that secrecy (anonymity) will be maintained. This is because there is always that threat that voter databases will be attacked and the privacy of voter information breached (Hollyer, Peter, and James 18). As such, trust and confidence in the process is eroded.
Recently, there have been a lot of concerns regarding the reliability of technology-based electoral processes due to the many reported incidences of electoral systems being attacked by hackers. Therefore, the hackers are believed to tamper with the systems to favor of their preferred candidates. For this reason, it is not surprising that many US citizens were worried that the 2018 midterm elections would be hacked; there were always debates aimed at predicting if the elections would be targeted by cyberattackers. In light of these concerns, technology-based elections should invest more resources in preventing security breaches; doing so will serve to guarantee trust among the electorate, eventually making it successful.
Obviously, computer technology has revolutionized the way elections are conducted in the United States and other parts of the world. This technology has provided many avenues through which the electorate can exercise their democratic right; this was evidenced by the 2018 midterm elections that occurred on 6th November. Some voters utilized Smartphone applications to choose their favorite candidates while others voted online. Even though these advances in technology are remarkable, they present various challenges to the election systems. The voter registration databases are usually targeted by hackers, and as such, the privacy of the voter information is breached. Cyberattacks also tend to influence election results. These attacks, therefore, erode public trust and confidence in the entire electoral process.

Bernhard, Matthew, et al. “Public Evidence from Secret Ballots.” International Joint Conference
on Electronic Voting. Springer, Cham, 2017.
Carr III, LeRoy, Anthony Newtson, and James Joshi. “Towards Modernizing the Future of
American Voting.” 2018 IEEE 4th International Conference on Collaboration and Internet Computing (CIC). IEEE, 2018.
de Bruijn, Hans, and Marijn Janssen. “Building cybersecurity awareness: The need for evidence-
based framing strategies.” Government Information Quarterly 34.1 (2017): 1-7.
Hollyer, James R., B. Peter Rosendorff, and James Raymond Vreeland. “Transparency, protest
and democratic stability.” British Journal of Political Science (2018): 1-27.
Sehgal, Vivek Kumar, et al. “Smart human security framework using internet of things, cloud
and fog computing.” Intelligent distributed computing. Springer, Cham, 2015. 251-263.
White, Jay D. Managing information in the public sector. Routledge, 2015.

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