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For Fair Elections: AI or Paper Ballots?

Today, many Americans no longer trust their elections. Already, their trust in American institutions runs low, enough that even the election process is subject to scrutiny. I believe the ongoing decades of polarizing issues and politicians broke the trust between the government and its people. It left us with a question that no one can definitively find the answer to: How do we unify the United States or at least learn to tolerate each other?


Holding open-minded debates and discussions fails to cure the American political divide, at least in the long term.  TV news outlets rarely cover the news without bias, mostly relating newsworthy events to their target audience, appealing to their particular bias. Take a look at this graphic from Ad Fontes Media, which specializes in news coverage. 


Unfortunately, I believe biased news and a lack of trust in the electoral process will only worsen. Donald Trump, the Republican presidential candidate, already said he may not accept the results in Wisconsin. He continued to affirm that he actually won the state in 2020, even though court rulings and independent studies concluded there was no major electoral fraud. However, supported and indiscriminate facts were not enough to prove the elections were legitimate for many Americans.


This distrust is also significant for the upcoming elections. Most Republicans and independents have little confidence that the next election votes will be accurately counted.


Think tanks, citizens and politicians suggested many solutions to repair America’s divisions. One was to use AI to combat disinformation and harmful content online. However, AI is a double-edged sword when it comes to disinformation on the Internet. It can destroy it like it can generate it.


AI can find and control misinformed posts, but it can also help to create misinformation like a false Obama statement. Thus, the Americans who only watch this fake video and share it not knowing that it is falsified can lead to widespread misinformation. In the long term, it undermines the presidency and the democratic institutions based on false information. This dangerous outcome is not worth the risk. 


AI is not powerful and well-controlled enough to be used in the tense and polarized 2024 presidential election. There is simply too much at stake for both parties for an AI to control everything.


To ensure a fair electoral process, we need more people to witness it. People do not trust the vote count? Put their nose right in the process. That way, they cannot argue everything is a lie because they would have failed at their job.


In Canada, during the vote count, candidates have the opportunity to nominate a representative for every polling station. This way, every party can ensure a fair and legitimate vote count. It is the same option when mail-in voting is counted. Candidates can always contest the rejection of a vote. Canada and Quebec did not have any legitimate widespread rumors of electoral fraud. 


However, this is only possible with paper ballots, not machines. Paper ballots are mail-in votes and physical ballots on election day that electors put in a ballot box. Should the United States national elections only use paper ballots? The electoral machines seem to be a divisive issue where discussions and facts lead to no trust gain.


The paper ballots seem more reliable in the voting count in everyone’s mind and if it can help legitimate the elections, it should be instated nationally. However, imposing such a rule would be against the state's right to choose its electoral process. Would the Americans be ready to make this sacrifice to get a more legitimate election? Certainly not at the moment. 


Nonetheless, we truly need to find a solution to reinstate the people’s trust in democratic institutions. The world is too chaotic with the multiple wars and elections going on in the country for the United States to fall in disorder too. 


The people need to be reassured in order to be united again and survive the current polarization. AI has yet to prove itself as a reliable and safe system to be considered seriously as a potential solution for fairer elections. Humans are still a more reliable solution for fair elections than AI, because, with proper supervision, they may prevent election chaos like we witnessed with the app idea during the  2020 Iowa Democratic caucus. But I have faith that AI will become a serious alternative when it becomes more advanced. 


Acknowledgment: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the individual author.


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