Monday, August 1, 2016

Secure electronic voting at meetings

security panel

You’ve thought about Hillary Clinton’s server security. How about the sensitive information at your events?

There are, or should be, concerns about sending an events voting information out over the internet for compilation and display. Web-based voting has become very popular. It may be used with attendee’s devices alone, or mixed with purpose-built audience response system (ARS) devices. Interestingly, very few fear that while the information is on the web, it may be covertly viewed and possibly manipulated. I’m not saying it happens, just a consideration with sensitive materials.

The internet concern is, of course, eliminated when the ARS is wireless and completely self-contained by low-powered radio signals within the room. Let’s start with discussing events where there is no web-based voting.

Native American Tribal Council clients have had more security concerns than any of Quick Tally’s other clients. (You would assume incorrectly that it would be TV game shows.) So, let’s use them as our example.

The background is that many of them went from being poor, really poor, to being casino cash rich. Tribal membership, as it relates to sharing income, became a very valuable and contentious commodity. Some tribes have rules that tribal members must live, or have lived on tribal land for a certain period of time. Women tribal members had children that grew up elsewhere, or were taken from their families. They obviously had important issues to discuss that were handled at interactive meetings.

They were fine with accepting ARS as providing reliable quantifiable voting. After all, our ARS voting is accepted on high-stakes TV shows such as America’s Funniest Videos. If Quick Tally can do that, why not trust us with the same technology for their events.

It turns out that they trusted us and our accuracy. The concern was specifically insuring that only credentialed member’s vote.

It was easy enough to tick off solutions regarding security:

  • Distribute voting devices only to credentialed delegates
  • Check the number of votes against the baseline number of eligible voters
  • Voting devices (if assigned) may be labeled by name, tracked by the assigned individual’s name or device number
  • The wireless systems work within FCC Rule 15, assigning very low powered radio emissions. The range is unidirectional and usually about 200’. Anyone device outside of the range would be rendered useless.

This client’s thoughtful response was – that’s fine, however, how can we keep people from purchasing their own voting devices and using them? That actually had not crossed my mind during the conversation and was a great question.

If you need an answer for your event here it is:

The solution is simple. Prior to the event, log-on only the voting devices that are authorized. This creates a membership subgroup. No one else can enter the group once this process is completed. Since ARS systems can show the voting by groups, the vote is filtered through that subset of the overall population of the room. The system will only recognize and display results by those pre-logged on authorized devices.


With over 30 years of experience in helping clients achieve their meetings goals. I am passionate about the power of insight. If I can help your firm discover this power, please contact me.

Alan Warshaw
President
Quick Tally® Interactive Systems, Inc.
Direct Dial: 310.306.4930


About Me

After graduating from New York University with a degree in Communications, Alan attended the New School for Social Research, Graduate School at N.Y.U. and the Master’s Program in Cinema at U.C.L.A. Following his service in the U.S. Army, Alan was employed by Doyle, Dane and Burnbach Advertising Agency. He worked in the U.S. and Europe in the feature motion picture production business. He was employed by Quick Tally Interactive Systems for one year prior to acquiring the company. He has owned and run the company for almost three decades and has pioneered in the manufacturing of ARS equipment and providing interactive event services. In addition to US State and Federal Government Agencies, America's leading companies, associations and television networks, he has also worked for events clients in the EU, New Zealand, Hong Kong Thailand and Dubai.