Internet Voting – Safe or Not?

If you ask the Department of Homeland Security, FBI or the Election Assistance Commission, they say Slow down, bucko.

Securing Internet voting is hard to do. Very hard to do.

Internet voting falls into several categories:

  • Sending ballots digitally to voters
  • Sending ballots digitally, marking them only and printing out the results to return the old fashioned way
  • Ballots that are both sent and received digitally

There are dangers to all of these, but the most dangerous is the last.

Some states are experimenting with digital voting in limited ways – say in primaries or for voters with disabilities.

There is a lot of attractiveness to online voting. For one thing, it is simpler for the end user. After all, I don’t understand the attractiveness of waiting on a line with hundreds of strangers for several hours to cast a vote that might take a minute or two if it could be done safely online.

Of course it would cost states billions to upgrade their antique voting management process to support digital voting – ignoring the security issues.

But think about it this way –

Who would want to change your ballot anyway? The answer is that the list is very long from nation states, to competitive candidates to people who want to cause chaos to any number of people.

Then the other problem. Over the last 10 years we have been working very hard to figure out how to be technically able to verify votes that are cast at polling centers on PCs. Finally, many states, but not all, are requiring these PCs (they call them voting machines, but they are really just Windows or Linux PCs) to print out a slip of paper with your votes on them. Some, including Colorado, requires these slips to have human readable text that allows the voter to read the receipt and say “yup, those are the people that I voted for”. Some receipts have just a QR code on it. How does that help the voter know whether his or her vote was recorded correctly.

When it comes to pure digital voting, how would you know if the digital ballot you completed was ever received by the county clerk or whether it was changed, somehow, along the way? Currently, no way at all.

If the clerk sends you a ballot and you print it out and return it by mail or in person, it is, maybe, possible to hack, but not in any large way, so the risk is lower.

At some point we will get to all digital voting, but it will take time.

There are too many folks that would really like to undermine the confidence of the American public in the outcome of the election .

Just this year the President has said time and again that even plain old paper ballots sent and returned by mail are a major fraud problem. Colorado has been doing just that for 5 years now with no evidence of major fraud, but lets assume for the moment, that voting on paper ballots with ink via the mail does increase fraud by some percentage. Imagine what the President might say about fully digital voting.

Credit: Washington Post

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