Tablets may not be the answer for voters


I was among the many Northern Virginia residents who waited in a painfully long line to vote Tuesday. People were frustrated and, of course, vocal. I overheard one voter refer to the system as "antiquated" while another exasperated citizen said "there's got to be a better way to do this!"

It's true, there may be another way. But voting technology has been slow to advance primarily due to security and privacy concerns, which likely trump any benefits of convenience promised by new voting technology.

That being said, there is an effort underway to use tablets for voting.

Last fall, Oregon became the first state allowing disabled voters to use tablets and supplied all 36 counties with the devices. Yesterday, disabled voters piloted 10 Samsung Series 7 tablets running on Windows 8. A press release from the state touted the operating system's built in accessibility tools. It also said the state was encouraging voters with disabilities to test their own accessibility devices' compatability with the new technology.

In Virginia, the Surface tablet was tested at one precinct but was not used for actual voting on Nov. 6. The test used Microsoft's Windows Azure cloud-based platform and DemocracyLive's "LiveBallot" app through the browser. Using the app, testers could access, mark and print a ballot, which was then loaded into another machine.

While the results on these trials aren't in yet, we can make some predictions based on other attempts to modernize voting technology.

For some time, experts from the National Institute of Standards and Technology to the Homeland Security Department have frowned upon the proposition of Internet voting. And today, we can simply turn to residents and public officials from New Jersey for a few lessons in failed voting technology.

For these reasons, I have my doubts that tablet computers will be used anytime soon as a widespread voting solution. - Molly