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Identity and Authentication Services

Vote Early, Vote Often

Created: 05 Feb 2008 • Updated: 08 Aug 2012
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Hi, I'm Jeff Burstein, a product manager on the VIP team.

Today is Super Tuesday, and as a California resident, I went to vote this morning in the primary election. Since this is a blog about identity and trust, let's examine what I needed today to prove my identity to vote: nothing. Do I really look that trustworthy?

I walked into my polling place, went up to the table and told the poll worker my name, which she dutifully looked up in the voter roll and crossed out. No identity check needed, no need to show my ID, check a signature, or any other form of authentication -- just the honor system. (And of course the threat of going to jail for voter fraud!)

For those of us who live and breathe identity and authentication every day this is just unnatural! Of course, there are all sorts of reasons for the lack of strong authentication for voting today, most having to do with budgets, voter turnout, the 24th amendment, and the potential for discrimination. So what can be done to strengthen voter authentication while still preserving equal access and maintaining the integrity of the secret ballot? Some ideas are coming out of the Caltech-MIT Voting Technology Project, who held a conference on this very topic in 2006. But considering the recent fiascoes with touchscreen voting machines, it may be hard to get the public to accept new technology solutions to voting problems.

-- Jeff