Data Comparison Service; What are the ethical and societal consequences of digital voting for democratic elections?

Karri, Ram, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
JACQUES, RICHARD, EN-Engineering and Society, University of Virginia
Vrugtman, Rosanne, EN-Comp Science Dept, University of Virginia
Graham, Daniel, EN-Comp Science Dept, University of Virginia

My Technical Project was focused on database management software I created at my summer internship. My STS Research Paper on the other hand was about determining whether digital voting was worth implementing in our countries voting system. It would be a stretch to say that my STS paper and technical paper were related, other than maybe the fact that digital voting will have to use some type of database to store peoples’ votes. Nonetheless, I believe that my STS research topic was important enough to warrant a paper without a concrete relationship to the Technical Project.

For decades, the voting system has been relatively the same even with advancing technology and changing needs of the people. There has consequently been more scrutiny on the nation’s voting system with the results of recent elections. As a result, I wanted to determine if a predominately digital election could replace the current voting system we have. Alongside this, it was also necessary to see if the positive ramifications that would result from a digital voting system outweighed the negative ramifications that could possibly arise. My research concluded that with more development of technology and based on the Social Construction of Technology Theory, a digital voting system is both plausible and could solve many of the problems that currently plague the current voting system. This is because even with the security concerns present, the SCOT states that the problem can be the cause for new technology to be developed that solves that problem. In essence, even if there were a couple flaws with a digital voting system, an adequate number of resources will allow those flaws to be fixed until the system is sufficient to be used nationally.

The technical portion of my project was based on a problem that the organization had been dealing with for a long time. The introduction of sharding in the cloud and the presence of thousands of databases across many various environments led to many inconsistencies across replicated databases. In simpler terms, the same type of database which existed across multiple servers in various environments would not match with itself in another instance due changes committed by developers over time. This resulted in crashes regularly as the databases out of sync would often conflict with each other costing the organization hours of development time with no immediate fix possible. This led to me and another intern being assigned with the responsibility of designing a solution for this problem. We ended up creating a service that could scan the schema and data from any database at the organization regardless of factors like environment and database structure. The service also took the database and stored it in our own external database, which developers could then write queries for to compare all of the various databases in the organization. Obviously, we did not get the chance to scan every database, but the testing performed on the scanned databases was very promising and the service impressed our supervisors.

Overall, both the STS Research Paper and technical report were both great learning experiences. With the STS Research Paper, I learned the importance of technology in regards to society and how our actions form the technology that is constantly created. In regards to digital voting, I was able to analyze both its merits and disadvantages in a thorough manner, leading me to my conclusion that it is worth developing a fully digital voting system that could be used in our country for the foreseeable future. For my technical project, on the other hand, I learned many skills ranging from technical skills like database management and PowerShell to soft skills such as agile development and the ability to work in large organizations. While both areas could definitely use more work, the work done had practical application which could eventually be used in the real world.

BS (Bachelor of Science)
Blockchain, Voting, Security, Database Management, Database Comparison

School of Engineering and Applied Science
Bachelor of Science in Computer Science
Technical Advisor: Rossane Vrugtman
STS Advisor: Richard Jaques

Issued Date: