As many of us head to the polls in the next week, we all want our vote to count. With more computer-based voting systems, there’s always a concern: what really happens when I press ‘Cast Ballot’ on that machine? One Austin-based company is developing innovations to ensure none of us has to wonder if our vote is counted.
Hart InterCivic has a platform of computer-based voting machines, and a patent portfolio to back up all their innovations. Just this week their latest patent application was published, which has a unique hybrid solution to the mystery of what happens when you cast your online ballot.
First, a quick primer on voting technology. In the world of voting systems, there is the old paper ballot system, and there is the newer direct recording electronic (DRE) system, in which a voter records their votes on an electronic machine, which then is electronically recorded. There is no ‘paper trail’, as they say. This is the method most concerning to voters that worry about they vote being counted. It’s also the method most susceptible to hacking. Votes are stored only in electronic form, the 'single-point-of-failure' that systems try to avoid. Enter Hart InterCivic...
US Patent Publication 2020/0334937 is a hybrid system that allows a voter to cast their votes on a computerized system. But this system then prints a paper record which the voter can review before that paper record is scanned and formally recorded as a vote. Other similar systems print out a barcode after the ballot is cast , but that still leaves a lingering voter concern — what’s really stored behind that barcode? With a printed ballot based on each voter's selections, the voter can read their own votes before they are counted. And that paper record could be stored away for any recounts or legal challenges. They even have Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology to handle write-in candidates and other rarities.
I know what you’re saying: why not just go back to old-fashioned paper ballots? Isn’t that the ultimate paper trail? Yes, but the electronic machine still has big advantages. Consider the front-end of the voting process. An electronic ballot can be formally created and edited much later in the process. Plus, you never have to worry about having enough printed ballots in each polling place.
Whether you’re using a machine, or still punching holes in a paper ballot, let's all agree to just get out there and vote.
Note: Images from published patent applications at uspto.gov