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Is 'Hacker-resistant' Online Voting Coming to America?

It’s a well-known fact that Americans, despite our divisive, fractious, Tea Party-laden political sparring, don’t vote. At least not in the numbers that we should. Hillary may be cranking up the Primary Colors machine again and everyone has an opinion on the Jeb Bush-Ted Cruz-Chris Christie-Mike Huckabee etc. GOP race, but the fact remains that when the second Tuesday in November rolls around next year, a sadly high percentage of those blustering about the candidates won’t show up at the polls to vote.

A team of researchers from the University of Birmingham in the UK is looking to eventually change that shameful fact, with a ‘hacker-resistant’ scheme aimed at bringing online voting to the States. Dubbed ‘Devices that are Untrusted used to Vote’, or Du-Vote, the pin-pad device is the size of a credit card and essentially randomizes codes that are associated with the candidates. So, when a citizen goes to a website to exercise her Constitutional right, she enters the randomized code – unique to her – that corresponds with the candidate of choice.

Du-Vote itself is never connected to the internet, and thus is never exposed to would-be hackers. And even if malware is installed on the machine used to access the voting portal, the codes are meaningless without the Du-Vote key.

It’s unclear whether it would be possible to rig an election with a back-end hack of the voting site’s database, but the researchers think they have the client-side of the issue figured out.

“In simple terms the credit card sized device helps to divide the security sensitive tasks between your computer and the device in a way that neither your computer nor the device learns how you voted,” the University of Birmingham’s Gurchetan Grewal told the conservative-leaning Breitbart site.

Whether with Du-Vote or some other plan, online voting could go a long way to addressing a growing voter turnout problem in the US. The 2014 midterm elections had the lowest voter turnout since 1942, according to the United States Elections Project, with just 35.9% of voting-eligible Americans making it out to the polls. The 2008 presidential election between John McCain and President Obama had the highest turnout since 1968 – but even so, only 61.6% of eligible Americans voted.

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