Internet Voting: Why It Isn’t “Someday” Yet
By Doug Chapin on November 2, 2011
[See computer scientist David Jefferson’s important white paper below — MCM]
Over the years, as I have traveled around the country to talk about the future of elections, I have noticed that a few common questions emerge. One popular question involves the use of the Internet to cast ballots; as more and more individuals become more and more familiar with using online merchants to bank and shop, they wonder why they can’t use that same technology to cast their ballots.
While I always disclaim any kind of technical expertise, I have nonetheless evolved a stock answer that I think captures the essence of the Internet voting debate. It is:
In talking to people around the country, there appears to be near-consensus that we will have Internet voting in the U.S. someday. The fistfights start, however, when you start trying to define what “someday” is.
Jefferson: If I can shop and bank online, why can’t I vote online?
Posted on November 1, 2011 9:33 am by Rick Hasen
In the course of writing The Voting Wars, and particularly the topic on voting technology, I encountered a number of readers who thought that Internet voting should be no harder to set up securely than online banking. My research told me differently, but there was no good, succinct source making this point. I am pleased therefore that David Jefferson has prepared the attached short paper making this point in a very convincing way. His work begins:
There is widespread pressure around the country today for the introduction of some form of Internet voting in public elections that would allow people to vote online, all electronically, from their own personal computers or mobile devices. Proponents argue that Internet voting would offer greater speed and convenience, particularly for overseas and military voters and, in fact, any voters allowed to vote that way.
However, computer and network security experts are virtually unanimous in pointing out that online voting is an exceedingly dangerous threat to the integrity of U.S. elections. There is no way with current technology to guarantee that the security, privacy, and transparency requirements for elections can all be met with any security technology in the foreseeable future. Anyone from a disaffected misfit individual to a national intelligence agency can remotely attack an online election, modifying or filtering ballots in ways that are undetectable and uncorrectable of just disrupting the election and creating havoc. There are a host of such attacks that can be used singly or in combination. In the cyber security world today almost all of the advantages are with attackers, and any of these attacks can result in the wrong persons being elected, or initiatives wrongly passed or rejected.