Arizona’s Ballot Papers Will be as Secure as Banknotes

August 2021

Arizona State Republican Mark Finchem is spearheading the Arizona Ballot Integrity Project to replace the state’s traditional election paper ballots – which carry no security features at all – with ballots secured with covert watermarks, serialised QR codes, covert taggants, and translucent, UV overprinted holograms.

This initiative follows Finchem’s belief that election ballots should be as secure as US currency, so as to prevent the use of fake ballots. Arizona is currently the only state to have formally launched such an initiative, but several other states are now considering a similar move.

Under the secure ballot system, ‘we’ll come close to making the forensic audit obsolete,’ Finchem said, referring to a state senate-led audit of the November 2020 election. As part of the audit, roughly half of Arizona’s ballots, originating from its most populous county, had to be recounted (it was even reported that these ballots were undergoing a third recount as recently as July).

The Arizona legislature has set aside budgeted funds for secure ballots in the amount of $12 million which is estimated to cover approximately 60 million secure ballot forms.

Not only does Finchem prefer paper ballots to electronic voting, he also prefers hand-counting to electronic ballot counting systems, because he says such systems carry security risks (eg. they often process paper ballots without verifying the ballot or the voter).

Finchem said he is hopeful the new system will be in place in time for the 2022 primary election.

What’s the rest of the world doing?

At least 25 countries around the world use electronic voting systems rather than paper ballots, according to Poynter.org, in a November 2020 article.

To be clear, electronic voting isn’t the same as online voting – it’s simply a faster way of tabulating votes made in person.

Countries as big as Brazil and India, with huge populations and complex political systems, shifted to electronic ballot technology many years ago. So why hasn’t the United States?

For a start, although there are similarities between these countries, there are also significant differences when it comes to voting systems.

The main difference is that while the rules, methods and processes for election vote gathering and counting in India and Brazil are decided at federal level, in the US they are decided at individual state level. Furthermore, each state leaves the details of the vote collection methods to its individual counties and precincts.

This results in an array of disparate voting methods, machines and practices, and a complete lack of consistency throughout the country.

To illustrate, there may be one city in a particular state using electronic tabulation devices at in-person polling locations, while another city several miles away uses paper ballots that are either read by a vote counting machine or even counted by hand.

So, coming back to the question of why the US hasn’t shifted to electronic ballot technology, one answer is that 19 states have already embraced some sort of electronic voting (according to VerifiedVoting.org), but, on the other hand, 22 states still work exclusively with hand-marked paper ballots. Therefore, as far as the US is concerned, the situation is more complex than just questioning national acceptance of electronic voting systems.

The Brazilian experience

Since 2000, 100% of Brazilian voters have been using an electronic voting machine, implemented at federal level. The mechanism is quite simple.

Voters type their chosen candidate’s number into the machine and hit a green button to get the vote counted. Each machine registers every single vote in a scrambled way. When the polls close, the machine generates a signed report where all parties can fact-check the number of votes per candidate against the number of people who participated in the election. The electoral courts then only have to add together the results from each machine.

The recounting of votes is also possible with the machine, and no fraud has been confirmed so far, reports Poynter.org.

Having said this, President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil did recently call for the system to be modified (amid suspicions of fraud), to allow for a printed receipt to be generated against each electronic vote so that the votes could be recounted physically. This request was, however, turned down by Brazilian lawmakers.

‘We run public tests every electoral year,’ said Giuseppe Janino, Secretary of Technology and Information in the Brazilian Superior Electoral Court (which owns and manages the voting machines). He advised that the system had never been fully hacked because the machines were not connected to the internet. ‘To hack it, a person would need to actually have all the machines in hand,’ he said.

For the 2022 presidential election, Brazil has already signed a contract with Positivo to produce 180,000 machines at $780 each, reports Poynter.org.

Also in this issue:

  • KURZ Group Acquires tesa scribos
  • Chemically Free Naturally Brilliant Colour
  • Food and Drink Security and Traceability Update
  • Nanotech Sells to Smart Light Company
  • Face-to-Face with Perception CEO Dr Sirisilp Kongsilp
  • Perceptions of Counterfeit Luxury Goods Differ Across Cultures
  • Traditional and Digital Authentication for Paper-Based Bitcoins
  • 3D Printed Perovskite-Based Crystals Have Variety of Security Applications

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