The Future of Voting


This is a transcript of Episode 2 of Synthetic Society. It has been edited for brevity and clarity.


Tom Ascott: Hi, welcome to Episode Two of Synthetic Society, the show where each week we have a pioneer from AI, technology or internet culture. And this week we're very grateful to be joined by Sonya Anderson a senior elections partner at SmartMatic. If you've heard of SmartMatic that could well be because after the wake of the American elections in January, when Republicans contested the election results SmartMatic were thrown into the centre of a raging debate over the safety and security of electronic voting. This episode, Sonya sits down with us to talk to us about what SmartMatic are doing to ensure end to end safety of voters, the security that goes into electronic voting, who electronic voting benefits and the future of voting here in the UK.


Thank you so much for joining us today, I think the best place to start is with a just a basic understanding of what electronic voting is. For most of our listeners, I think the assumption is that it's just like regular voting, but you either do it at a voting station on an electronic voting machine, or that you can do it at home from your phone or computer.


Sonya Anderson: I think you probably have summarised it pretty well. And I think when people talk about election technology, and we tend to use that kind of broader term, that that's what people are referring to, they're talking about electronic voting, and they're talking about the technologies that our voter interacts with at the point of casting a vote or marking a ballot paper. And that could be technology that's used in the polling station, as you say, to either assist them, a touchscreen device that records an electronic vote or something that assists them in marking a physical piece of paper, or using an internet enabled device, or mobile phone or laptop that allows them to cast their vote electronically online. I think the one part I would say around that is election technology is much broader than that. And electoral administrators, election management boards are using technology to improve the integrity and the efficiency of delivering elections through the whole lifecycle of an election. So that might start right at the very beginning in the establishment of electoral register, ensuring that you don't have duplication, that everybody on there is has been authenticated and has the right to vote in that election. So, you might use technologies that support you in that process, all the way through the nomination process, how you record political party spending, how you manage the logistics of the election event itself, training staff all the way through to how you authenticate voters at the polling station when people present themselves at a polling station or online, what technologies might you use to authenticate them and those are kind of things all form part of that election technology piece. But certainly, the technologies that assist with casting the ballot or voting are probably the ones that are discussed the most.


Tom Ascott: Yeah, I agree. I think most people think about purely the delivery added to the final stage in that process. And I don't personally think so much about everything that goes in before that, such as the duplication. When it does come to that delivery, it sounds like it is quite similar to the actual kind of analogue voting process that most people know with kind of pen and paper or something like this, what are the advantages then of electronic voting at that delivery stage? You kind of mentioned the assistance it provides, is this something that can help with people who have various disabilities? Is it kind of allowing kind of a broader amount of people to participate in the democratic system?


Sonya Anderson: Absolutely. I think absolutely, electronic voting and analogue voting share that common foundation that they are assisting you in casting your vote, making your decision and recording it, but I would definitely suggest that electronic voting goes a long way beyond that. You mentioned one of the primary points there, which is accessibility paper is extremely inaccessible. Now whether that is voting at an station or using postal voting pack, so absentee or mail in ballots, as they're referred to in the US, postal voting, as we call it, here in the UK, actually completing a pack of that kind, if you have a visual impairment is incredibly difficult to do. Accessing a polling station and marking your ballot in secrecy are needed. Again, incredibly complex to do if you have certain visual impairments or physical disabilities, if you have a low literacy level, if English isn't your first language, and that's the language set that's used in the polling station, all of those challenges can be overcome with electronic voting. Also, I think, again, one of the biggest issues with a manual election is that people accidentally spoil their ballot, there are a huge quantity of ballots that are rejected. So really, that's voters that are disenfranchised from the process. they went to the effort of turning up they wanted to participate, but because they couldn't follow the instructions they were unable to, they accidentally spoil their ballot their ballots rejected and I think electronic voting can guide the voter through the voting process, make sure that they don't under vote or over vote or accidentally spoil their ballot. And then I really think there's around the audit-ability of the process. When you think about when we build technology systems now or government systems, we will probably be looking at multiple audit trails, multiple ways of checking transactions, actually, a single mark on a ballet paper is actually a very weak audit trail. So, when we refer to electronic voting, certainly in a polling station, we're talking about doubling up that audit trail at least. So, we're talking about not just an electronic vote, but always a paper ballot or a paper receipt in some way as well. And that dual process can form part of the audit and the checks that are run against the election afterwards. So, I think there's lots of benefits that come from electronic voting, and it's not sweeping away a lot of the principles that are in place with paper at booth paper voting, it's enhancing those.


Tom Ascott: That's so interesting, certainly something that I realised during the US election was how many ballots are accidentally spoiled, I didn't realise it was such a high number. And also, the after the votes are cast that there are invigilators, who are almost trying to identify spoiled ballots that belong to the other party. And so, it's so important that people are able to fill out remote or postal voting forms. And again, I also assume that those are very simple. When you hear a lot of the stories, it turns out that people do struggle with the number of instructions that are involved. And if any one of those instructions are not followed absolutely crystal clearly and to the letter that they run the risk of having their vote thrown out. But you also mentioned that there would be some kind of dual process at play here that voters might receive a paper receipt, does that kind of imply that electronic voting system isn't the only way forward for voting? Is it possible that the future would be much more of a dual or hybrid model where there continues to be analogue voting as well?


Sonya Anderson: I think so. I think hybrid or multi-channel voting as it's often referred to, is already very much in play. We don't maybe always call it that, but it but it's there in existence, even if you use the US as an example. So, there are different models adopted on a state-by-state basis in the US. But if you took a typical state, they may, for example, use electronic voting machines in the polling station. But with a paper audit trail, they may allow voters to cast their vote as a mail in ballot so using paper and then when those paper ballots are received, use scanning technology to scan and record those votes, they might use a technology called online ballot delivery for overseas and military voters where a voter can receive their paper electronically online, mark it and either send it physically back or return it electronically. So, I think those hybrid models already exists. I think pen and paper is here for some time yet. And I think for lots of voters going to the polling station and marking a ballot is a really critical part of the process to them. But again, technology can still enable that process, it can still increase accessibility to that process. We were involved in a in a big project in Los Angeles, which is the voting systems for people. And that is about assisting the marking of a ballot, less about electronic voting. And it still uses technology such as audio voting, where I can have instructions read to me, I can use a device to help me mark my ballot, and then I can verify that that ballot has been marked correctly before it's cast. So I think yes, very much a hybrid model is what we would expect to see emerging out of lots of countries now and in the future.


Tom Ascott: It is interesting, especially this idea that it's so many different parts in the chain of voting and the auditing potential from electronic voting allows for analogue voting to become more secure in many instances. It certainly sounds like we're moving towards a system where electronic voting comes into play at least some stage of an election and it is almost inconceivable that a purely analogue vote could be cost. In the future where do you think that is going to go? Is it going to become more electronic and more parts of this these stages? I think that the coronavirus pandemic has opened the door for a lot of people to consider kind of electronic options where previously they might have only considered in person options or analogue options.


I think so. I think there's a number of drivers as to why technology gets introduced into elections, particularly at the voting end of the process. And I think that, you can talk about lots of those drivers reducing fraud, increasing accuracy and auditability. But I think that convenience and the way in which we live our lives is undoubtedly a massive driver. We have to think about, how we conduct every other aspect of our lives now. we often don't work in the same places that we live, we travel and we work long days. Being in a very specific place to cast our vote sometimes just isn't convenient anymore. And so a combination of techniques that enables military voters, overseas voters, voters with different needs and disabilities combined, I think to bring together the driver for these technologies. And I think absolutely the pandemic and COVID-19 has really shone a spotlight on the fact that for lots of countries, they don't have a lot in their toolkit at the moment. They have potentially postal voting or in person voting, and that really doesn't give a lot of options to give voters assurances that they can still participate in a democratic event safely in the time of a pandemic. And whilst lots of work is being done to make sure polling stations are safe, I think remote options are going to be increasingly demanded by voters.


Do you think that will lead to how we've seen a lot of work from home models? Do you think we'll see you vote from home models? If we've got it for military and overseas personnel, would it make sense that you can be in your pyjamas at home and be able to cast a vote?


Absolutely. I'm pleased to say that does already happen in some countries, not a huge amount, but it does in some. We are a partner in the technology that supports the Estonian elections, they've been using online voting for all of their statutory government elections since 2005. And over time, increasingly, more people have participated in that. So originally, that was very much about enabling overseas voters, they have votes cast online for about from around 121 countries globally. But increasingly, people in country want to use that technique. And at the last European parliamentary elections, over 45% of Estonians voted online. That demonstrates I think, the demand for that channel, they still have polling station voting. They are reducing the quantity of postal voting. And I think it's like a channel shift. I think people are moving from one mechanism to the other. So yeah, I think absolutely the demand is going to be there. We have to sort of practically think about how people are living their lives. And I think, voting in your pyjamas? Yes, it happens, of course. But I think the worry is, certainly, I think for politicians and some stakeholders is that in some way trivialises the event of voting.


Sonya Anderson: But I think it is about that convenience, and it's about accessibility. And it's about the way in which we consume services and elections are a service, they're a government service, much like any others, and there's probably not a single service in government now that that isn't changing its delivery method and that people aren't consuming in some way online.


Tom Ascott: It is really interesting that idea that, the language that we use around it can kind of trivialise it in some ways and us saying voting in Pyjamas makes it sound like people might take their vote less seriously. I wonder how much truth there is to that? I think we've seen in the past; psychological studies have shown that the way that people interact with social media platforms can bring out different sides of them, it can make people angrier, or quicker to kind of be rude to other people, partly because it offers a level of anonymity, but also partly because we can see that people have different personas that they use, at work, at home and online. Have you noticed or is SmartMatic paying attention to this idea that by allowing people to maybe you vote from their phone, or from their laptop, that might bring out a different side of them? And they might be likely to vote in a different way?


Sonya Anderson: Actually, no, I'm not aware of any evidence that suggests that the channel in which you use to vote changes the way that you would have voted anyway. when you think about the way that somebody cast a ballot in a polling station, it's in private, so irrespective of what you may have said to people about how you're going to vote, even your family and the people you live with, the whole point of voting is that it's a secret transaction, and that you should be able to go into that voting booth or that voting environment and be able to vote in secret with without coercion and make your own choice.


So no, we're not aware of any evidence that suggests that voting online changes the way you vote, and actually, again, to refer to the Estonian election project, that the evidence and research there actually shows that online voting is very politically neutral. You're just as likely to use online voting, irrespective of which party you're going to vote for. You're just as likely to vote online if you're male or female, and females just very slightly tip it on the percentage point. And also age as well. Again, I think that people would assume that online voting is very attractive to young people and not so much older people, whereas actually in Estonia, the over 55's make up nearly a third of the people who cast their vote online. Potentially early on you saw kind of early adopters were maybe more in that kind of 20 to 30 bracket. But that's not the case now. So actually, as a channel online, the evidence that we've seen from long running use of online voting in some way like Estonia is that it's a very neutral channel.


Tom Ascott: It's funny, because I think in some ways, the assumption is almost that it would be negative. That if people voted differently because they were voting online, it wouldn't be because they were voting more in line with their truer held beliefs. That in some way, it would have to be a more glib vote, when actually I think in some ways, like you said, people can kind of escape from coercion, either from some force in their real life, or maybe that just they feel pressured being in these very formal voting stations, some people's voting stations commonly represent, ongoing kind of power structures, whether that could be a church or whether they could be in certain types of buildings that represent power structures. But actually, if people were voting from their home, they're probably more likely to vote in line with what you might consider to be their core and truly held beliefs.


Sonya Anderson: Yeah you're absolutely right. Exactly as I mentioned earlier, that some people really place a value in going to the polling station, and that the establishment of that structure and the sort of legacy of it and the history of it. here in the UK, the legislation and the framework of our polling stations is based on, legislation that was written in the 1800s. And it hasn't really, in many ways changed a lot since then. But for many, absolutely, if you're a first-time voter going into that environment is quite daunting. As you said, it might be enough of a barrier to put you off or to change the way you vote, are you more likely to be led by the way your parents vote because of the traditional nature of that environment. So yeah, absolutely. I think that, as long as we can demonstrate ways in which online voting can be both secure, and trusted in its implementation, but also that there's mechanisms to avoid coercion. Again, one of the mechanisms that Estonia uses is that they allow people to vote many times, but it is your last vote that counts. So, if you did vote online, and you felt that you were being pressurised at that time, actually, you can go again and change your vote. And it is the last one that counts. So, there's different mechanisms that can be used to make sure that people feel comfortable at the point of casting their vote.


Tom Ascott: So that demand for the channel that you're seeing in Estonia, does that also then translate to kind of a greater demand for voting in general? I think something that I don't know if this is a concern or an opportunity for stakeholders, but that people think that by having a greater access to voting, there will be a greater demand for voting as well. And that electronic voting can lead to more referendums or more citizen engagement and perhaps lower-level regional community politics.


Sonya Anderson: Yeah, I think that electronic voting definitely has the ability to increase democratic participation. And I think that both in the polling station and online actually, I think, if you take the polling station scenario, one of the issues we talked about is people accidentally spoiling their ballot papers. Now, not so much in the UK, but certainly in the US, you'll find with elections that actually they're asked to vote for lots of different things. Rarely are US citizens going to the polls and only been asked to cast a single vote for the president, it is for a whole different of directly elected roles within their county or state. And that becomes very complex. And again, there's probably a far greater likelihood that people are going to spoil their ballot paper. Whereas I think technology can guide you through that process and make sure that you gain the benefit of every vote that you're entitled to cost. There is strong evidence here in the UK, where we have combined elections when you're being given multiple ballot papers at the same time. So, London would be a great example of that. When the Greater London Authority elections are held here in May, there will be voters in London who will potentially receive five ballot papers with multiple different voting systems on them. Really, by the time you've been given instructions on all of those, and you've gone to the booth, the likelihood is that you will probably have forgotten exactly what you're supposed to do with each one. Whereas I think technology can help, you could be presented with a whole series of different resolutions or questions, referendum questions, in a single transaction. And technology could guide you through that. I think when you look at online voting again, once you have the infrastructure in place, and people are familiar with using it, then I think it becomes very easy to roll that out for more frequent democratic engagement and participation. I think that voters do suffer from voting fatigue and if we are asking them to go to a polling station every time to cast a vote, I think that we’re going to see the outcome of that, turnout globally is declining. In all statutory elections, and so, with a few notable exceptions, so I think an infrastructure that supports online voting definitely has the ability to increase that regular participation.


Tom Ascott: You're right. I think that friction, or the more friction there is there, between your desire to vote and your ability to vote, then the more fatigue that comes with each time you're asked to go in and vote in any kind of election. We've kind of mentioned the US a few times, I think we do have to address this head on. And that is the kind of allegations stemming out of the 2020 US presidential election. I understand that, this is an ongoing legal matter for SmartMatic. And I can't ask you to comment on anything specifically. And also, we should note that listeners shouldn't read into anything that you've said as especially pertaining to any ongoing specific legal case. I think we should take the time to talk a little bit about the seriousness of electronic voting as opposed to just other kind of hardware or software matters. And kind of how SmartMatic addresses the level of testing that's required for electronic voting?


Sonya Anderson: Yeah, I think you're right. And yeah, unfortunately, I can't really talk about and I know people are so interested to talk about it, never before has a US election had this global interest. I think, unfortunately, for lots of the wrong reasons. Yeah, I can't talk about those court cases. But, certainly, without a doubt, misinformation is probably one of the biggest dangers to election integrity and trust. What we saw in the US was a huge campaign of misinformation against SmartMatic and other vendors. And that has the impact of undermining voter trust.


In the US, they were really early adopters, and long-established mature use of electronic voting. And as you said there, I think it's important to understand, and what was just missing from so much of the news reporting US was the layers and layers of testing and certification that go into the implementation of electronic voting in the US. It is not possible just to put technology into polling stations, there is national level certification, there is independent testing undertaken by test labs who have been appointed by the government to do that job. And in all cases of the contentious state that appeared in lots of the news in the US, those machines produced a paper ballot, a paper record every single vote that was cast. So there was able to be a full audit against the electronic calculations and tabulations and the paper ballots. And I really think none of that came out. But, for us, absolutely. well designed electronic voting machines should be able to be audited, tested, secured in multiple ways. And what we would sort of describe, I suppose, is that security is baked into what you do. You are designing a device that supports voting, you're not taking off the shelf hardware and trying to backward integrate it into a voting process and trying to plug gaps. You are starting from the bottom up and saying, 'well, this is the application, this is what we need to do'. And you're building your systems around that. And then using independent testing or auditing third party stakeholders to scrutinise that technology should demonstrate that it can be delivered securely and accurately.


Tom Ascott: I think hacking is just such a powerful image in like the Zeitgeist at the moment that there are these, Donald Trump, when he first ran for President was talking about these 300-pound hackers that could potentially be hacking into systems. And I think that electronic voting almost offers this blank space in people's minds where anything can fit into it. And that can be, people in dark rooms and hoodies hacking in it can be, Donald Trump's 300-pound man, or it can be kind of adversarial countries trying to tamper directly in the election. But the way that you're talking about it, it makes it sound like really the biggest threat is misinformation rather than an actual hardware hack.


Sonya Anderson: Without a doubt, an important thing to remember about electronic voting machines that are used in polling stations in the US is that they're not connected to the internet. So, it's not possible to hack them. They sit in isolation during a polling day. So hacking is not viable. And but yes, of course, state intervention is something that everybody is concerned with globally around elections, but misinformation how you target individuals and the messages that you that you present to them, I think, without a doubt is the biggest threat. If you say that fraud occurred in an election repeatedly and enough, people begin to believe it. And I think that what we need is for voters to go and check their sources. It's, we know don't take our word for it. Don't go to the SmartMatic website, go to independent sources. Go to academic sources. If we only use sources, if we look at news and look at sources that match our own ideologies and beliefs, then there is the echo chamber. We will only hear that that back and I think that with election technology unlike so many other technology projects there are winners and losers in elections. And so there are big drivers to find the villain and to point the finger as to why a political party or a politician wasn't successful. Rarely is it lack of popularity, it's always really trying to find something else that is the root cause and so I think when technology is introduced, absolutely you have to build trust, and you have to take stakeholders and voters and political parties and journalists and press and the media with you and make sure the information is available to them.


Tom Ascott: It sounds like you've kind of got two security channels going on at the same time. One is the hardware security channel of the machines and the process itself and the other is epistemic security the idea that it’s not enough just that electronic voting is safe, but it seen to be safe as well. When you're talking about building trust in these machines is that part of, God what would you call it, almost like the voting cycle itself that if SmartMatic is going to get involved in an electrician and provide electronic voting services that you have to consider a step in that process to be building trust with the electorate around these machines. And is that something that has kind of come out from the recent bent on misinformation or is that something that SmartMatic kind of has always acknowledged and has been addressing for quite some time?


Sonya Anderson: Absolutely something we've always acknowledged. We have been delivering election projects for 20 years now and whether you're going into an emerging democracy, but certainly if you're going into a country that has a quite a well-established democratic process, and voting process you have to be part of managing that change. And in trying to ensure that people are comfortable with the with adopting those changes, understanding the drivers as to why it's being done. Not technology for technology's sake but these are the benefits that we all realised from it. So, voter education is a core part of any project and we will always anticipate moving back from election day itself, that supporting electoral commissions, electron management boards, with voter education would be something that would kick in really early on. And there's lots of things that you can do to support those efforts and piloting testing, trialling and working with stakeholder groups that represent particular groups of voters that have an interest are all things that you can do to ensure that by the time we get to election day people do feel confident about using that technology.


Tom Ascott: I hate to almost be glib about it but in some ways it's been a collective failure of all of these stakeholders over the past decade to address this rising wave of misinformation. There’s been systemic failures at every level. How do we get out of this we’re so deep into it now SmartMatic looking at the future is it almost a sense of dread when you look at the times? About how bad things have gotten and how much work, time, effort, money is going to take to really start to address these issues?


Sonya Anderson: I don't think we have a sense of dread. I think we are gravely concerned about misinformation and the impact that that has and the knock back that will have on the adoption of technology in elections process moving forward. it could set us back years. That absolutely is a concern, because we see the benefits that it brings. we've seen them realise the easiest election in the world to undermine is a purely analogue manual election. as we've already talked about, accessibility to a purely paper process is very low. So, it is disheartening to think that adoption of some of these technologies that have been proven to deliver in many countries around the world will be knocked back by some of the misinformation campaigns we're seeing in places like the US. But that's what we're about we've been doing it for 20 years, it's never been easy. I think that you have to be in it for the long game and certainly we are and so you just have to keep pushing forward and really just working with NGO's, working with independent agencies, working with academics and finding ways really to try and get that message out there is something we're always going to be striving to do


Tom Ascott: Ironically it sounds like electronic voting is so embedded into so many stages of the American electoral system, and also other western countries as well, that misinformation probably won't take electronic voting out of the game for any significant amount of time and really that misinformation, while it might damage voter confidence, won't damage our ability to use electronic voting. But the twisted sense of this is that it might be the democracies that the newer younger democracies which are only now looking to try to implement electronic voting which will see the most pushback. That in these emerging democratic areas, they will get a pushback from the electorate, because they're seeing the same misinformation everyone else is seeing. And even though it doesn't pertain to their local elections or elections in that region, they will assume that it will be as vulnerable as the American elections. Because I think the assumption will be that if the Americans can't sort this out, then it's unlikely that an emerging democracy will be able to have a better chance of fixing it.


Sonya Anderson: I think that is a concern. And I think it's a concern for many reasons. I think it's a concern, because there are huge benefits to be brought to emerging democracies from the use of technology. I take hope in beacons like Estonia, Estonia only got independence in the early 90s. And, I kind of think of them now as like a Technology Tiger in the way that they've approached every aspect really, of digital government, not just elections, but every aspect of digital government and the kind of technology backbone they built to support that. And that comes with it the security infrastructure, the developed nature of their approach to cyber security, have allowed them to develop this really very modernised hybrid or multi-channel voting environment that we've talked about. So it's absolutely possible. I think that again, there's lots of drivers as to why you would use technology. In lots of countries, we see technology benefiting where literacy levels are low. We've talked about accessibility for people with particular disabilities. We do know that absolutely In some countries, the use of technology is all about fraud reduction, where people are attempting to vote more than once. We can use technology in the polling station to authenticate voters using biometrics, for example, that allows us to be absolutely sure that the person who has received the ballot paper is who they say they are, and that they can't attempt to vote a second time. real 'one person, one vote' principles being put in place. So yes, I think that, we can only hope that the messaging still gets out there. And certainly we are still working with countries who are looking to adopt technology in different parts of the election lifecycle, Now, today. I would really hope that it's not going to set us back to too badly.


Tom Ascott: Such a thorny problem, isn't it, as you're saying that and you're talking about, the issue, say around language, it will be regions where there's a lot of regional dialects, regional languages, where they're very vulnerable to misinformation, because maybe they can't access, government policy or government instructions about electronic voting, but it can be reached by kind of regional misinformation, and electronic voting could come in and do the best for them. But they again, are most vulnerable to misinformation about it. So it's such a shame. And the same with biometrics. That's such a buzzword for conspiracy theorists, they're going to think someone listening to this podcast, who really believes in QAnon or the, SmartMatic is in some way trying to manipulate votes, they'll hear biometrics and think that they're going to personally be tracked or that know their vote will be disallowed, or something like this, when in actuality, biometrics provides an incredibly secure way to authenticate votes. It's It feels like a Catch 22 no matter which way you go, there's another hurdle to overcome before you can just get to a smooth-running field.


Sonya Anderson: There is absolutely and yeah, we see this in lots of countries where exactly one of the challenges is around authenticating voters and biometrics are being used. And they're being used very successfully, but absolutely building trust that there is an air gap between those two processes, the way you authenticate somebody and mark them from the electoral register to say that they've turned up at a polling station, and then the way in which they cast their vote and the air gap in of those two processes, again, is something that you that you need to work very hard around voter education to make sure that there's a better understanding of how that works.


Tom Ascott: We've spoken a lot about the need for trust and education. Are there any situations where you think maybe either the trust is too low, either between citizens and their understanding of electronic voting or even trust between SmartMatic and a government, that you think that SmartMatic would just want to not get involved in the election? That you could foresee that a government or regime would look to blame SmartMatic or another electronic voting manufacturer or that you could be used as a scapegoat?


Sonya Anderson: I think that when we started out, we were established in in 2000. And it was in Florida. And it was just after that kind of, I'd say one of the first elections globally where people started to talk about technology. And it was around the time of the Bush / Gore election and hanging chads was a phrase that people start suddenly started talking about, they'd never heard about hanging chads, little tabs being punched out of bits of paper. And what did this mean? And it became kind of part of our dialogue that we that we'd never used before and the founders of SmartMatic, at that time, were working within secure system development, particularly around the banking and kind of FinTech industries. And they looked at what was being used then and said, well, there is already technology available now that is far advanced of what's being used in the US. Now, I think all the US was guilty of at that time were being early adopters. So, they had legacy systems that had become outdated. And they didn't have some of the principles that we've talked about today, they didn't have these multi-level layers of security, they didn't have dual audit trails (both physical and electronic audit trails) where you could cross reference the two. So, I think that's what they were guilty of. But I think that that when the business was started, its principles were that we can develop technology or design technology to fit elections that is more auditable, is more transparent, is more accurate, can improve the speed in which results are calculated, can be more accessible to more people. There was no other agenda. It really was as simple as that. And I think that as long as we can work with election commission's and electoral management boards that mirror those principles, that are looking to improve transparency, to improve accessibility, that then there's always going to be governments or election management bodies that we want to work with, because those are challenges we can meet.


Tom Ascott: That's so fascinating. Thank you so much for your time today. I think everyone will have come away from this with a much greater understanding of electronic voting and the kind of the problems that it looks like you're going to be trying to address in the next 20 years for SmartMatic. There are some really interesting things you touched on. I think the final question I'd like to ask is, if you do see 20 years’ time, how far do you think we'll be able to get in solving a lot of these problems? Do you think in 20 years’ time, we'll look back at this as a kind of dystopia? And that we were able to kind of quite easily get out of it? Or do you think that in 20 year’s time, these problems are only going to worsen?


Sonya Anderson: I think it's inevitable that we'll come out of it, we have to. Because I think back to that point that we set about how people are living their lives, democracy has to resonate in the way in which we conduct our other parts of our lives. I have two children, an eight-year-old and a 12-year-old, I talked to them constantly about the importance of democratic participation about voting, it's important to what I do, but the thought of them go into a kind of dusty old polling station and the only option to them is to mark about paper with a pencil? It doesn't seem that that that could possibly be where we are in 20 years time. I just think that demand and the need to increase participation, to encourage participation, means we will have to look at technologies and how they facilitate the voting process. So, I am confident that it won't be me delivering those projects. But I am confident that in 20 years time the landscape of election technology will be very different and that there will be a far greater adoption than we see now.


Tom Ascott: Thank you so much for your time, Sonya.


Sonya Anderson: it is an absolute pleasure. Thanks for asking, Tom.



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