In recent elections, voter turnout has been higher than in the past, with people visiting polling sites in person, using absentee ballots, and taking advantage of email, fax, or online uploads. While not all states offer the same voting options, most are seeing increases in the use of absentee and online choices. However, not everyone is convinced electronic options are secure, and that lack of security may lead to problems developing during the counting process.
Proponents of online faxing are pushing for more states to adopt the option or make it easier for overseas voters to use. Opponents state online options are fraught with problems and make voter fraud easy. However, industry experts respond, saying those concerns are vastly overblown and must be discounted to preserve the right of people to vote for their candidates.
While it’s important to grasp both the pros and cons of online faxing and other digital voting options, the underlying issue is that citizens have a right to vote using an appropriate method. So, how do elections benefit from online faxing in an electronic world?
In the 2020 election, a record number of U.S. citizens turned out to vote, but the way they voted is arguably more important than the actual numbers. A record number of voters opted to vote early, by mail, and by using digital options. The reasons for people choosing those options varied but certainly included the pandemic and fears of intimidation at polling stations.
Voters living outside the U.S. also faced challenges voting in that election, with mail service in many parts of the world seeing slowdowns or disruptions due to political conditions and the pandemic. Those factors lead to many of those voters seeking safer, faster ways to cast their ballots.
Throughout the U.S., the validity of votes cast both in person and by other methods was challenged. The allegations were that widespread fraud was changing the outcome of the election. However, no evidence of widespread fraud ever surfaced, which suggests the integrity of the existing system hadn’t been compromised.
Those voters living abroad still submitted ballots using the postal system, but a large number of them opted to use digital voting methods, including online faxing, where permitted. The safety of voting digitally includes a few inherent risks, but there were no significant issues reported among the votes submitted digitally. With the increasing number of challenges when mailing ballots from overseas, it’s likely more voters will opt to use digital voting methods in the future, which leads experts to wonder what types of issues may develop if those methods were commonly utilized in future elections.
The primary concern with using digital options for voting, including secure online faxing, is security. That’s understandable as countless examples of hacking occur every year, but industry professionals are well aware of the threats and take steps to maintain the integrity of their systems. However, it’s still important to understand the potential for issues to develop with digital voting. Here are a few of the problems online security experts consider.
1. Privacy Issues. When submitting a ballot digitally, there is currently no way to guarantee voter anonymity. That means it may be possible for anyone involved in processing the votes to discover the identity of a digital voter. It’s also likely the states require voters to sign an affidavit affirming they understand their anonymity is not guaranteed.
2. Votes Cannot be Audited. It’s virtually impossible to audit digital votes, as the process is commonly understood. In other words, reconstructing lost or digitally damaged votes would be difficult if not impossible. That’s an important issue, as most people want their votes counted. Of course, it’s also impossible to guarantee there will never be problems even at typical, in-person polling places. The key will be to use the most secure email and online faxing options.
3. Malware Transmission. If a voter’s computer is infected with malware, it’s possible to introduce that malware to the transmitted to the equipment used by the site receiving the online ballot. While most sites are protected, the voter’s ballot may not be counted due to the presence of malware. However, if the site receiving the online ballot is not properly protected, significant issues can result.
4. Votes May Be Manipulated. When there is no encryption, email and online faxes are subject to manipulation. In other words, it’s theoretically possible to alter ballots during the transmission process. Votes may be changed or discarded at some point in the process, especially at the receiving site.
Of course, the likelihood of experiencing these types of problems is minor, but consider that players could alter, to some degree, the election results at specific sites even when typical security protocols are in place.
Indeed, security experts warn that security issues will be present when digital voting options are in use. The very way digital communications are designed makes it possible to alter or destroy online faxes or email ballots. Should that stop people from using those systems? The short answer is no, as the odds of significant problems occurring are currently slim. However, it’s incumbent on voters and government agencies to take all appropriate security steps when a system will be used as part of the country’s voting process and to upgrade security protocols when possible.
Some security experts suggest it’s safer to improve the mail service than it is to provide foolproof online voting options, but is that really an option given the trends seen during the last election?
As noted earlier, using traditional mail services has proven to be slow and unpredictable. The odds of a late or lost ballot are high when mailing ballots from some foreign countries, which means your vote would not be counted. That’s not acceptable for many individuals. Even though there are some risks involved with online faxing of a ballot, those risks may be preferable to mailing.
Some states allow both email and fax voting, but others may accept one or the other. It’s always important to determine well in advance what your options are when submitting your vote while you’re in another country. Voters using online faxing to vote find the process to be straightforward and relatively easy to use.
Even if voters in another country don’t have access to an actual fax machine, apps and software that convert email attachments to faxes are readily available. Users scan their ballot, as well as any other required documentation, and follow the appropriate instructions for the online faxing app or software they’re using.
It’s important to review how an online faxing system works before election day to ensure you’re able to submit your ballot within the accepted timeframe. If you anticipate problems, make sure there is help available to walk you through the process.
According to voting assistance experts, more than half of all states now permit overseas voters to vote electronically rather than using paper ballots and mail services. When voting using online faxing, it’s always a good idea to retain your copy of the ballot to provide a paper trail should a problem occur during the online voting process.
Currently, online faxing to vote isn’t available to people voting in the U.S., as other options are available and provide more security. However, the 2020 election demonstrated that voters are looking for other ways to cast their ballots in future elections.
The pandemic made many voters nervous, as they did not feel comfortable visiting a polling station in person to vote. They chose, instead, to vote by mail, where possible, to avoid the odds of coming in contact with an infected poll worker.
Other voters chose to vote early to minimize their exposure to other voters as well as poll workers. That didn’t work as well as expected, as many others also chose that option. However, the experience exposed voters to options other than voting on election day, and many of them appreciated having alternate choices for voting.
Does that mean future voters will look for ways to avoid voting in person on election day? Many experts believe the die is cast and voters will expect additional voting options in coming elections. Even though some people doubted the outcome of the past election, there is no evidence of any wide-spread voting irregularities during the 2020 election. Some states have passed laws making it more difficult to vote by mail, but voters are seeing the advantages of using alternate voting options rather than voting in-person on election day.
Might digital voting be a viable option for future elections? While it’s unlikely that will happen in the immediate future, events like the current pandemic may significantly alter the way everyone lives which, in turn, may lead to considering the use of online faxing as a way for anyone to vote.
If you’re currently residing in another country, many states allow using online faxing as a way to vote. Explore the current trends and evaluate the safety of your options now to decide how you’ll vote in upcoming elections. When possible, online faxing may be your best (and safest) option.