Computer technology has transformed how we participate in democracy. The way we cast our votes, the way our votes are counted, and the way we choose who will lead are increasingly controlled by invisible computer software. Most U.S. states have adopted electronic voting, and countries around the world are starting to collect votes over the Internet. However, computerized voting raises startling security risks that are only beginning to be understood outside the research lab, from voting machine viruses that can silently change votes to the possibility that hackers in foreign countries could steal an election. This course will provide the technical background and public policy foundation that 21st century citizens need to understand the electronic voting debate. You'll learn how electronic voting and Internet voting technologies work, why they're being introduced, and what problems they aim to solve. You'll also learn about the computer- and Internet-security risks these systems face and the serious vulnerabilities that recent research has demonstrated. We'll cover widely used safeguards, checks, and balances — and why they are often inadequate. Finally, we'll see how computer technology has the potential to improve election security, if it's applied intelligently. Along the way, you'll hear stories from the lab and from the trenches on a journey that leads from Mumbai jail cells to the halls of Washington, D.C. You'll come away from this course understanding why you can be confident your own vote will count — or why you should reasonably be skeptical.
Most of this course will be accessible to non-technical students. We will provide optional materials for those with some college-level computer science background.
Broken Ballots: Will Your Vote Count?
Douglas W. Jones and Barbara Simoms