This module is designed to help CS students familiarize themselves with the ways in which technology impacts the US election system as well as the types of technologies that have been deployed, their vulnerabilities to disruption, and reasons why it is still important to search for solutions to some of the known problems with current voting tech. The module contains a pre-assessment, three activities, and a post assessment.
Learning Outcome 1: Hardware Issues of Electronic Voting Technology
1) Paper Ballot-Counting Machines
2) Touch Screen Voting Machines (Internet)
3) Potential for Mobile Voting Applications
Learning Outcome 2: Software Issues of Electronic Voting Systems
Malicious Intentions: Cyberattacks vs. Unintentional Software Weaknesses
Learning Outcome 3: Voting Engagement Issues
Access Issues: Language, Ability, Geographic, Demographic
Influence Issue: Disinformation, Registration, Social Media Campaigns
What do you know about the different types of technologies used for voting? Use your previous experiences and knowledge to formulate your response.
What are the benefits that come from using these different types of technology for high-stakes elections? Use your previous experiences and knowledge to formulate your response.
What are the negative consequences of using these different types of technology for voting? Use your previous experiences and knowledge to formulate your response.
Activity 1: Hardware
Voting Technology Types
Narratives to View/Read Before Activity 1
Technology and Voting
https://electionlab.mit.edu/research/voting-technology - “Voting Technology” - Describes the types of voting technologies, recent history of machines, the controversy of using DRE’s for voting. (Read)
Places Using Modern Technology for Voting
“Microsoft hopes its technology will help Americans trust voting again” - Explains how Fulton, Wisconsin used Microsoft’s voting technology for their local election and how this technology can be beneficial for voting at a bigger scale. (Watch Video)
Negative Consequences From the Implementation of Electronic Voting
“Kill Chain: The Cyber War on America’s Elections (2020) | Official Trailer | HBO” - In advance of the 2020 Presidential election, KILL CHAIN: THE CYBER WAR ON AMERICA’S ELECTIONS takes a deep dive into the weaknesses of today’s election technology, investigating the startling vulnerabilities in America’s voting systems and the alarming risks they pose to our democracy. (Watch Video)
“Federal judge extends Virginia voter registration through Thursday” - Electronically held voter registration crashes and the state of Virginia legally had to extend their deadline. New technologies are susceptible to additional weakness initially upon their implementation. (Read)
Positive Aspects that can come from the implementation of electronic voting
Hands-On Activity and Whole Class Discussion
Students will partake in a poll answering the question, “Should America Implement Remote Electronic Voting?” After taking this poll students will then participate in a whole class discussion to discuss the previously assigned narratives.
At the start of class, give students the Google Form that way they can answer the poll. (5min)
After all students have answered the poll question, break students into 7 groups. Each group will discuss one of the assigned narratives. Give groups 5-7 minutes to discuss. Each group will be assigned a specific narrative with specific discussion questions. Each group will be assigned a Google Doc with discussion questions specific to their group. (5-7 minutes)
After groups have discussed the narratives, each group will present to the class the most impactful conversation they had when answering the questions. Each group will be given 2 minutes to present. (15 min)
Show results of the poll using the link below. *The results of the poll have been altered* (3 min)
Briefly summarize what you learned from yesterday and today’s activity and discussion.
What stood out the most to you?
What is something that was surprising to you or you would like to learn more about?
Was there anything confusing to you about this process?
Assign Narratives from Activity 2.
Activity 2: Software
Mobile Voter Application Design and Regulation Activity
Narratives to View/Read Before Activity 2
“The Simpsons S20E04 Treehouse of Horrors XIX - Homer tries to vote for Obama” - Homer Simpson tries to vote for Obama with an electronic voting machine, however, every time he tries to vote, a vote for John McCain is added. - 00:00:00 - 00:01:03 (Watch Video)
“Risks Overshadow Benefits with Online Voting, Experts Warn” - Explains the concerns a few members of the government have in regards to the implementation of online voting. (Read)
“Weighing the Risks of Remote Voting Technology” - Information about remote voting technology and the positive and negative aspects of it. (Read)
“7 Best Practices to Overcome Mobile App Usability Issues” - Gives an overview of what mobile app usability is and how to increase the usability of a mobile application (Read)
“The Future of Voting Technology” - Important voting technologies. (Read)
"Online voting is impossible to secure. So why are some governments using it?" - Explains the ways that online voting is vulnerable to cyber-attacks (Read)
Students will be divided into groups and either be a part of the Design team and create an app or be a part of the Regulatory team and think of ways to regulate an app to avoid future issues using previous knowledge and the assigned narratives.
You will tell the students that they will be in charge of designing a mobile voting application for college students.
Break students up into 4 groups (two of the groups will be regulators of the mobile voting application and two will design the mobile voting application.
Use the links below to give groups a few notes on what they should think about when creating the mobile application.
Groups will be divided amongst 2 rooms (each with a whiteboard). Each room will consist of one Regulatory group and one Design group. These groups will discuss the narratives they were assigned and use previous knowledge and new knowledge from the narratives to create the design of the mobile voting application for college students. The whiteboard will be used by the Design group in order to design the application. (30 minutes)
After the mobile voting application is designed, students will take a picture of their design. A Design group from one room and a Regulatory group from the other room will switch leaving one room with two Regulatory groups and one room with 2 Design groups. These groups will discuss the application they created and the perspectives of both the Design and Regulatory groups. (5 minutes)
Show class that results are shown after the pre-assessment questions were modified. Now that students know this, ask them the following questions and allow for class discussion.
How do we move forward with voter fraud existing? *This is one of the biggest issues of electronic voting*
Assign Narratives from Activity 3.
Activity 3: Voter Engagement Activity
Narratives to View/Read Before Activity 3
Accessible Voting Tech
Election Influencing Tech
Geographic/Demographic Access to Voting Tech
Students will reflect on their experiences during the duration of completing this module.
Have students reflect on their experiences completing the activities and reading/watching the narratives.
Assign Post-Assessment Questions to complete in class.
What do you now know about the different types of technologies used for voting? Use your new knowledge based on the narratives and activities we have participated in to formulate your response.
What are some of the positive benefits that come from using different types of technology for high stakes elections?
What are some of the negative consequences of using these different types of technology for voting in high stakes elections?
Knowing more about the positive and negative impacts of different types of election technologies, what do you believe would be the best type(s) of technology to implement in a small scale election (local election) if you were making recommendations to your hometown? Why?
How near or far in the future do you believe the United States will see electronic voting as the primary way of casting your vote in national elections? Why?
Which of the following issues do you think is the greatest threat to conducting fair, effective, and secure national elections?
a. lack of accessible ballots for people with disabilities or literacy barriers;
b. corporate influencing of election results;
c. external nation election interference;
d. structural demographic/geographic voter participation access;
e. Other: _____________________________________
How do you envision voting technologies might address your identified primary threat? How important is it for the government to take steps to develop a solution to your identified threat? What could computer science research contribute to addressing your primary issue?