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Colorado Removes QR Codes From Ballots to Strengthen Cybersecurity

Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold announced Sept. 16 that the state will remove QR (a type of matrix barcode) codes from its ballots ahead of the 2020 general election. The state said removal of QR codes will strengthen the security of vote tabulation and ensure that voters are able to accurately verify that their ballots are correctly marked.

“With foreign countries actively trying to exploit voting vulnerabilities, this is a first-in-the-nation added security measure,” the state said in a press release.

The change will require the voting systems to tabulate all ballots using human-verifiable information. Since this is a massive change from the status quo, the system is being developed and will be tested extensively and certified before it is deployed.

With the rise of foreign actors and nations executing campaigns to influence U.S. elections, Griswold’s office noted that “cybersecurity experts and election integrity advocates have raised questions about the security and verifiability of paper ballots containing a QR code.”

“We live in a constantly changing threat environment,” Griswold said. “Hostile actors will continue their efforts to discover vulnerabilities in the attempt to undermine confidence in our elections. We must continually assess all election systems to identify areas that should be improved. Our adversaries are not standing still, and neither can we.”

The state did note that there is no evidence that any of its voting systems have been targeted or attacked by malicious actors and that removing the QR codes is a proactive move, rather than a reactive one.

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