Questions for ‘How computers get out the vote’

The process of building a human-like head in a video game starts with simple shapes, as Ryan Bown shows here. More shapes are added as the modeling process continues. This builds up the resolution, offering more details to entertain video-game players.

Ryan Bown

To accompany feature “How computers get out the vote


Before Reading

1. Ask a parent or teacher what kind of technology they used the last time they voted. Did they vote on a computer? On paper? What might be the pros and cons of the method they used to vote?

2. Most people in the United States have access to the internet via a computer or smartphone. Yet voting from home isn’t allowed unless it is done with a paper ballot returned through the mail. Brainstorm three reasons why adults can’t vote with their phones.

During Reading

1. What are three key features of a good voting system other than simply tallying up people’s votes?

2. Why are researchers concerned about letting people vote online in an official election?

3. What is a “secret ballot” and why is it important?

4. How does the Smartmatic voting system verify a person’s vote?

5. According to the story, why are selfies taken in the voting booth controversial?

6. What might the software that Andrew Appel loaded onto a voting machine do?

7. What are three advantages that voting by computer has over voting by paper ballot?

8. What is encryption and why does it matter in voting technology?

9. How might scientists tell if the STAR-Vote system has been hacked?

10. How can kids and teens get involved in elections in which they’re not yet old enough to vote?

After Reading

1. Suppose you go to your local polling site and are given a choice in how you can vote. You can either vote on a paper ballot or a computer that gives a paper receipt. Which do you choose? Explain your answer using information from the story.

2.  How would you design a new and potentially secure system of voting? Would you depend on electronic technology or old-fashioned paper ballots? Would you let people vote on their smartphones or require that they show up at a single polling site? And how would you verify the results if someone questioned them? Describe your system in detail and explain why you selected each step in it.


1. Research the most recent past election in your community. Pick one office and investigate two of the people who were running. What were three of their biggest issues? Who won? How many people voted for each?