Since October of 2016, the United States has been quite assertive in blaming Russia for accusations based on cybersecurity concerns. By breaking into U.S. political systems, Russia was suspected to have “rigged” some aspects of the political process (e.g., favouring Republican nominee Donald Trump by tampering with digital ballots). The U.S. refused to accept fault for its internal crisis and quickly pointed fingers at Russian president Vladimir Putin, who holds a personal disliking of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. This situation has led to increased tensions between the two countries, with leadership reactions being judged from all corners of the media. By attacking state voter registration websites, Russia was perceived to be the culprit for recent cyberattacks, even though Putin himself has claimed that his regime was not meddling in U.S. affairs during the election process. Nevertheless, the elections process is vital to America; military leaders are warning that Russia has the potential to disrupt politics by resorting to cyber weapons to take advantage of the polls. This proves to be a foreshadowing for what may arise in the next four years and beyond.
Changing the game of politics
Quite a large majority of Americans have become concerned with the way politics has affected daily life. Because of the faults of previous administrations in the U.S. and the overshadowing of security issues that plague our physical and digital environments, civilians across the country and the world have turned to new leaders to create a better democracy. National infrastructure has been a top priority for the U.S. Government ever since the events of September 11th, 2001, and the latest string of threats to the political system only demonstrates commitment to resolve such issues. In an effort to see technology remedy issues such as voter fraud and criminal behaviour at the polls, U.S. officials could possibly consider the implementation of biometrics. What this entails is fingerprinting systems and retinal identification to validate and accurately recognize individuals of every state partaking in the election process. Cybersecurity threats have been looming ever since people started using electronic systems, and even voters are not left out of the equation. Biometric technology paves the way by closing the vulnerability gap between voters and hackers. In an era where computer networks are slowly being affected by virtually anything imaginable, the U.S. is likely to consider this technology as Americans see a new president in the Oval Office in 2017. The technology is able to handle both the privacy of domestic voters at the booths and the privacy of voter information when it comes to cybersecurity.
Why voter recognition matters
Biometric technology can shape the future since it not only presents a more secure environment for elections, but also guarantees political transparency between voters without compromising any data. With email data also being susceptible to exposure, cyber infrastructure in America has remained under intense scrutiny. Voter machine integrity is pivotal for political operations at the local, state, and federal levels. There are countless forms of voter fraud that affect the polls and create distractions for citizens. From intimidation and vote buying, to misleading ballots and misuse of proxies, all the way to complete destruction or invalidation of ballots, the list is endless. The public sector can vastly benefit from biometrics, which would help ensure a safe and legal transition from one voter to the next. By using hand and facial recognition software to achieve the goal of protecting voter interests, voters can feel confident knowing that not only does their vote count, but that it is also safe from the hands of criminals in the digital realm. Mitigating risks and preventing threats to electoral processes and candidates are crucial for political stability during the U.S. elections.
Biometrics at the booth
Every human being has distinct hand geometry and irises, and they serve now more than ever a purpose during critical election periods. Voters want to be assured that their votes are not tampered with at any stage of the election process, and surveillance over this demonstrates the future of U.S. elections and an effort to crack down on more sophisticated illegal activity. When voters normally hit the polls in each state, they are considering either physical forms and ballots with multiple-choice questionnaires or online ballots through a computer (both of which are fed into the system and electronically scanned in the end). To cut back on paper forms, cyber networks designed for ease of access exists to mitigate risk (although there are countless obstacles with this as we can see). Biometrics saves time and money and keeps the polls in order. Through biometric voter registration centres (BVCRs), anyone can record their information to the database prior to voting. When it comes time to vote, the participant steps toward the booths; the individual then places his or her finger on a fingerprint scanner to allow the technology to, quite literally, scan the finger and display marks confirming the person’s identity. Following this, the voter is then required to have their retina scanned by biometric technology that can correctly identify who they are. By having voters participate in this process, there is a complete removal of fraud because no two people are the same and only one person can vote on each ballot. There may even be extra precautions taken, such as passwords or personal identification numbers, which can aid in legitimizing the process further after the initial steps are completed.
Biometric technology would be rolled out by state and delegation, with voter interests of this process measured and surveyed prior to public use. By employing specific identifiers to keep people on their toes, there will be a better political process for everyone to vote. Any compromise in someone’s information can result in a disruption, and countering this problem is a major step that would take place weeks or months prior to elections night. While this solves the domestic obstacle, people may ask how this would prevent external threats at the international level. Biometrics of the future can prevent hackers and infiltrators from gaining access to voter information by installing encryption keys and campaign website protocols, which will mitigate any attempts at interfering in the process. Curbing efforts to change the outcome of the electoral process will warrant a fair and genuine environment.
Adding fuel to the political fire
Anyone who actively participates in politics would see faults in the way that voter safety and confidence is guaranteed, largely due to the competitive nature involved in making decisions and formulating policy. Whether it comprises Russian hackers or electoral fraud, people want to change the way we use technology in a two-pronged fashion that not only keeps threats at bay, but also safeguards key systems. In the case of this reformed process, sceptics would instead argue that there is no need to adjust the current state of affairs at the polls, since “fraudulent voters do not undermine U.S. elections, but rather the myth behind it being used to justify rules that restrict full and equal voting rights.” As foreign adversaries make attempts to target the elections process, the U.S. is additionally criticized for having to put up with this issue in the first place, while some deem it inconsequential since it is a natural pattern of foreign policy. In fact, Russia itself has proclaimed that voter fraud can happen practically anywhere, not just in the U.S. However, people who worry about national security will contest that fact – they believe that cybersecurity concerns and citizen protection deserve priority over voting outcomes. There is an irony that remains, as the public may be wondering why we decide to use technology that will probably get hacked just as easily as normal electoral systems. Biometrics technology is soon to be considered by states where cybersecurity is already an obstacle, but this technology itself has its own vulnerabilities. That being said, where biometrics is underappreciated or disavowed by those who favour normal election procedures without intervention or reform, there will always be an opportunity for the U.S. Government to make positive changes in how America votes for candidates.
Nations such as Iraq have already made attempts to adopt biometrics in the elections process. Sadr City, for example, has installed BVCRs in smaller capacity, although the influence from this has been only slightly noticed and is hardly computerized. According to PJ Media, the country’s “trained election workers can set up biometric polls and prove identities of voters through provisional ballots.” Unfortunately, opponents will say that it does not stop conflicts and guilty individuals from committing voter fraud and suppression (because of innate behaviour or fervent political opinion). Where voting rights are key to Middle Easterners, legitimate ballots are almost a necessity for preventing corruption and voter theft, and this also encompasses other country efforts in cracking down on regional electoral fraud of any kind. In East Africa, Tanzania has used a BVCR to stabilize its constitutional and general election objectives, which has been in effect since February of 2015. But there is doubt to this as much as any other country that attempts to use it for political success, since diverse regions and states define voter security and fraud in different ways.
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 Dilanian, K. et al., “U.S. Govt. Hackers Ready to Hit Back If Russia Tries to Disrupt Election”, NBC News, 4 Nov 2016, http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/u-s-hackers-ready-hit-back-if-russia-disrupts-election-n677936.
 Minnite, L.C., “The Misleading Myth of Voter Fraud in American Elections”, Scholars Strategy Network, Jan 2014, http://www.scholarsstrategynetwork.org/brief/misleading-myth-voter-fraud-american-elections.
 Imholt, T. and Forsmark, D., “How Fingerprint Technology Solves Election Day Multiple Voting Fraud”, PJ Media, 17 Jul 2013, https://pjmedia.com/lifestyle/2013/7/17/how-finger-print-technology-solves-election-day-multiple-voting-fraud/.
 “Biometric voter registration launches in Tanzania”, Planet Biometrics, 24 Feb 2015, http://www.planetbiometrics.com/article-details/i/2740/.