Damn the science; Damn the integrity; If it feels good do it!

New York Times:  States Move to Allow Overseas and Military Voters to Cast Ballots by Internet <read>

At least thirty-three states are planning on allowing military and overseas voters to cast ballots by Internet, email, or fax.  What could possibly go wrong?

  • The vote could be hacked to be  changed
  • The vote could be hacked to determine how someone voted
  • But also, even for of a threat, someone in Town Hall or the County may have to receive the votes and they can see how someone voted

The troops are supposed to be fighting for Democracy, our right to speak freely and even to protest wars if we choose.  So, why do we deny or mislead them into compromising their voting anonymity? Compromising our right that everyone’s vote be anonymous?

From the Times:

Nearly three million overseas and military voters from at least 33 states will be permitted to cast ballots over the Internet in November using e-mail or fax, in part because of new regulations proposed last month by the federal agency that oversees voting…

Initial steps have been taken to address the problem. In last year’s Defense Department authorization bill, several provisions were added, including one requiring all states to provide military voters with ballots at least 45 days before the election.

It also allowed states to initiate pilot programs for testing the use of Internet voting, but some states have misinterpreted that as requiring such systems.

Most of the states that have created pilot programs for Internet voting will allow voters to send completed ballots as an e-mail attachment. Others use fax, which used to be limited to phone lines. But because of the growing use of voice-over-Internet phone service, faxes are increasingly being sent on the Web.

We appreciate the goal of the MOVE Act but have been disappointed in the Internet pilot provisions.  Its even worse that states are misinterpreting the flawed provisions as a mandate for possible chaos and compromise.

We have also signed the Computer Technologists’ Statement on Internet Voting, which warns against using unproven technologies.  To the Time’s credit, some critics are quoted in the article along with some pertinent facts:

Cybersecurity experts, election officials and voting-integrity advocates, however, have raised concerns about the plan. They point out that e-mail messages can be intercepted, that voting Web sites can be hacked or taken down by malicious attacks, and that the secrecy of ballots is hard to ensure once they are sent over the Web.

“The commission’s decision basically takes the hazards we’ve seen with electronic voting and puts them on steroids,” said John Bonifaz, legal director of Voter Action, a nonprofit voting rights group that sent a letter last month to the Election Assistance Commission, the agency that released the proposed guidelines… Critics of the increased use of Internet voting say the commission is violating federal law by not allowing enough time for public comment on the guidelines and by circumventing the technical board that is supposed to review any such new regulations…

Critics of the new guidelines say they are flawed because they allow voting machine vendors to do some of the performance and security testing themselves. The results of those tests will then be submitted to the commission for certification.

Most security experts support the idea of using the Internet for registering to vote and for accessing blank ballots, but not for transmitting completed ballots.

Some lawmakers have vowed to slow the shift toward Internet voting.

Representative Carolyn B. Maloney, Democrat of New York, and Representative Michael McCaul, Republican of Texas, are working on legislation to establish a two-year moratorium on the electronic submission of ballots until stronger security standards are established.

Representative Rush D. Holt, Democrat of New Jersey, has a bill pending that would in effect ban Internet voting.

The Defense Department decided last year not to create its own Internet voting system until it first receives recommendations from a technical advisory committee that was created by the Help America Vote Act, which Congress passed in 2002…

Richard A. Clarke, a cybersecurity expert and the former counterterrorism chief under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, said he remained skeptical about ballots being sent over the Internet.

“The ultimate solution is for some foundation or organization to put up a large cash prize and take actual voting systems that will be used and allow anyone to try to hack them,” he said.

Sadly the misguided attitude of many election officials is “anything for the troops, if it makes them happy”.  Would they support feeding their children all fast food if it made them happy?  Or letting the troops go without helmets if it made them happy? Or those heavy vests?

“We have nothing but positive things to say about our experience,” said Pat Hollarn, who retired last year as supervisor of elections for Okaloosa County, Fla., which has allowed voters to cast ballots via e-mail since 2000. Ms. Hollarn said she continued to support expanded Internet voting…

Chris Whitmire, a spokesman for the South Carolina Election Commission, said that his state had been receiving ballots by e-mail and fax since 2006 and that he had heard no complaints from voters who chose those methods.

“What we do hear is thanks from voters who previously couldn’t get their ballots returned in time,” he said, explaining that voters receive a blank ballot attached to an e-mail message, print it, mark it by hand, scan it and send it back to be counted.

Johnnie McLean, the deputy director for administration at the North Carolina State Board of Elections, which has offered overseas and military voters the option to use e-mail or fax for their ballots since 2006, said that when she gets a call from a soldier overseas who has missed deadlines but wants to vote, she is glad she has the e-mail option.

“Even though there are security issues,” Ms. McLean said, “those soldiers are real happy, too, that they don’t have to lose their right to vote.”

Update: UOCAVA Pilot Program Testing Requirements: Comments Submitted <read>

Several individuals and groups have submitted comments on the internet pilot program.  Most are critical of the programs lack of appreciation for the risks of Internet, email, and fax voting, while several others point to the lack of consideration for voters with disabilities.   We note that Jeremy Epstein starts with analogies similar to our example of fast food:

Almost everyone likes chocolate cake, but that doesn’t mean it’s nutritious. So it is with Internet voting – we know that it’s popular as a concept, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea, any more than drunk driving might be – it’s a thrill, but it’s dangerous to both the driver/voter and society.

For those who wonder if I have the troops interest in mind, all I can do is to claim that I do.  By the way, here is a photo of yours truly protecting South Korea from invasion by North Korea at Camp Kaiser, Korea circa 1970.

States Move to Allow Overseas and Military Voters to Cast Ballots by Internet

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