Can RFID Track Ballots in Government Elections?

By RFID Journal

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Ask The ExpertsCan RFID Track Ballots in Government Elections?
RFID Journal Staff asked 11 years ago

If so, what brand of readers would you recommend we use?

—Name withheld


Radio frequency identification can be and has been used to track ballots during government elections. In December 2010, Costa Rica deployed the technology to track and monitor the nylon sacks in which paper ballots filled out by voters are delivered from each of the country's polling places to a central ballot-counting warehouse located in San Jose, Costa Rica's capital. The goal was to boost the speed and accuracy of the ballot-collection process. RFID allowed the government to quickly identify sacks of ballots, and to track what had arrived versus what was expected to. The technology improved the speed and efficiency of the handling of those ballots (see Costa Rica Counts on RFID to Monitor Ballots).

In 2008, Alameda County, the seventh largest in California and home to much of the East San Francisco Bay area, including the city of Oakland, began employing RFID to help it ensure that ballots are collected and managed properly. The county debuted the system during a small, local election held on Nov. 6, 2007. As far as I am aware, the system is still in use (see Alameda County Gives RFID Ballot-Tracking a Vote of Approval).

I cannot recommend a specific brand without knowing exactly what you want to do. You could use RFID to identify and track polling equipment, or to make sure the equipment is not tampered with. You could also employ it to track sacks of paper ballots or other items. If you need to track sacks of ballots, I think the question you need to think about is, "From how far away do I need to read the tag?" It might make sense to utilize close-range high-frequency (HF) tags, or to instead use longer-range ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) tags. Once you decide on the reading distance that makes sense for your application, you can choose between HF and UHF tags, and then choose a supplier.

—Mark Roberti, Founder and Editor, RFID Journal

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