Researchers at the universities of Surrey and Birmingham have developed a voting system that integrates optical scanning, data processing, and encryption with the process of manually writing on a paper ballot. The Surrey/Birmingham system retains the use of a paper ballot that looks nearly identical to those currently in use, but with two key differences. First, the order of the candidates’ names is randomized and is not the same on every ballot as in current elections. Second, a perforated line will run down the middle of the paper ballot, with the candidates’ names on the left and the voting boxes on the right. Each voter, after casting their ballot, will use this perforation to tear the paper ballot in half. They then will use a shredder to destroy the left-hand half containing the list of candidates and feed the right-hand half into an optical scanner, which will immediately feed all the information to a central database that keeps a count of all votes cast. “Our system will combine the best of both worlds–providing secure electronic vote-counting that cuts the cost and complexity of running elections but doesn’t require big changes to the actual voting process,” Surrey professor James Heather.
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