As States grapple with the additional challenges of holding elections during the novel coronavirus pandemic, election administrators are exploring and implementing technology to increase capacity to deliver blank ballots electronically and to provide necessary accessible ballot marking options for voters with disabilities.

Free Speech For People Senior Advisor on Election Security Susan Greenhalgh and Dr. Steve Newell of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) have published a guide to “Leveraging Electronic Balloting Options Safely and Securely During the COVID-19 Pandemic.” The paper examines best practices for mitigating ballot security and privacy risks and explores available remote access ballot marking options that conform to design best practices. The authors stress the importance of restricting electronic ballot marking to those who cannot use a pre-printed blank ballot; advising voters to cast their votes offline or using only secure personal networks, as well as ensuring votes are erased from device memory, to protect privacy; and guaranteeing a voter-verifiable copy of each ballot for audits and recounts.

“States are facing legal challenges from disability rights organizations demanding a remote accessible option. Remote ballot marking should conform to security and privacy best practices that do not transmit vote choices or voted ballots over the internet,” they write.

Election and national security experts have warned that personal electronic devices and wireless networks are vulnerable to hacking. Reports of growing Russian interference in federal elections make such warnings even direr for those considering online options. Offering safe, secure electronic ballot marking options will prove critical as states continue to confront the spread of COVID-19.

Susan Greenhalgh and Dr. Steve Newell presented the paper at the Election Administration State Certification Testing of Voting Systems Virtual Conference, which took place June 24-26. You can read the full report here.

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