Computer Scientists, Election Integrity Advocates Question Feasibility of “Digital Democracy”
by: Alissa Bohling, t r u t h o u t | Report

Despite the recent hack during public testing of DC’s Internet voting pilot and the rash of other security problems that have plagued the short history of online voting systems, elections entrepreneurs, along with some state officials and voter advocates, continue to make headway as they push for the adoption of i-voting technology. The practice – and the private voting systems industry that appears poised for more widespread adoption – has found an inroad via military and overseas voters. As the November midterms near, 33 states have laws on the books that allow for some form of Internet voting for citizens living abroad and for military members and their families.

In 2004, the Department of Defense’s Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) called off its $22 million pilot to collect 100,000 online votes from military and overseas voters from seven states, citing security concerns. In the Netherlands, Internet voting was banned outright after an unpromising 2006 test of the country’s fledgling system. Although little evidence has since appeared to assuage the concerns of the computer scientists and election integrity experts who are i-voting’s most vocal critics, the demand for so-called “digital democracy” appears to be growing. Investors expect Internet voting to make up an increasing share in the electronic voting systems market, which was recently estimated to be worth $1.5 billion.

This election, counties in 25 states will digitally deliver blank ballots to military and overseas voters. Colorado’s four participating counties and Texas will also allow ballots to be marked electronically. West Virginia’s eight participating counties and Arizona are permitting voted ballots to be returned via Internet voting systems. Arizona has allowed the practice via its state-designed system since 2008, and West Virginia will use systems supplied by private vendors Everyone Counts and Scytl. All but 11 of the remaining states will allow votes to be returned via fax or email (although Idaho, Maine and Missouri only permit this practice under special conditions), methods which effectively require voters to forfeit ballot secrecy and present additional problems that overlap with those of dedicated Internet voting systems.
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