Can Online Voting Ever Work?
Three ballot initiatives have been proposed in California that would require the State to offer online voting in government elections. It seems like a natural application for Internet technology; it might even increase voter participation by making voting more convenient. If we can shop, bank, and trade stocks online, why can’t we vote online? Read on...
Is Online Voting Secure?
Security experts and election officials say we just don’t have the technology to make online voting safe while keeping votes secret. There have been many attempts at online voting systems over the past 20 years, and most - but not all - have failed to cut the mustard.
In 2010, the District of Columbia challenged hackers to breach an online voting system it was developing to allow overseas military personnel to vote via the Internet. A team of security researchers at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor promptly and thoroughly subverted the system, changing votes and vote tallies and even inserting “malware” that played the Michigan fight song when voters cast their ballots.
The Australian state of New South Wales introduced an online system called iVote in the Spring of 2015. Another white-hat team breached it in just a few days, planting vote-stealing software on the server.
Way back in 2004, the Pentagon spent $100 million on SERVE - the Secure Electronic Registration and Voting Experiment - in an effort to let overseas military and civilian DoD employees in 51 countries vote online. Several tech heavyweights were involved in designing SERVE, including Accenture, HP, and Verisign.
But the Pentagon canceled the project on the eve of its going live, citing numerous security flaws that money and expertise could not overcome. Your tax dollars at work...
But security concerns did not deter Alaska from allowing online voting in 2012, and in a 2014 election that featured a Senate seat and the governorship. Voters are able to download and print a ballot, then either mail it to election officials or scan it to a PDF file and submit it electronically. Either way, remote voters must waive their right to vote anonymously; a notarized signature on a voter identity verification form is required.
Online Voting Around the World
The Swiss have taken an incremental, cautious approach to online voting, with city and canton (think “county”) level experiments that began in 2004. Security and trust in online voting have improved with each of the more than 100 elections where some votes were cast online. Indeed, the Swiss constitution now guarantees citizens the right to vote online. Sixteen percent of Swiss votes are cast online now.
Online voting has been standard in all elections for ten years in the tiny eastern European nation of Estonia (pop. 1.3 million), despite security experts warnings that it is vulnerable to hacking and internal fraud. The Estonian system relies on the country’s mandatory ID card, a chipped “smart” card that provides authentication for digital signatures of electronic contracts as well as voter ID verification. About 25% of Estonian votes are cast online now.
While some voters prefer to vote online, the option has NOT increased voter turnout in Switzerland or Estonia. Voters who were going to vote anyway simply voted earlier, while those who don’t vote the traditional way cannot be bothered to vote online, either.
Online voting is gradually gaining footholds around the world. It’s likely to become the new normal as generations of citizens accustomed to doing everything online become the majority of voters. Let's just hope that the Estonian model of "Do it anyway, despite well-known security and privacy concerns" is not accepted as "normal" as we move forward. If that's the case, then I'll continue to opt for a paper ballot.
Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post a comment below.
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 5 Feb 2016
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Can Online Voting Ever Work? (Posted: 5 Feb 2016)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved