Military Internet voting requirement tucked into “Technical Bill”

In the last couple days, the text of bills passed by the Government Administration and Elections Committee in mid March have been posted to the Connecticut General Assembly web.

One item was tucked into S.B. 939 that requires the Secretary of the State to implement Internet voting without a budget increase. The bill was intended, and mostly remains, as a “Technical Bill” to make changes to the statutes to account for the move to optical scan voting. (the bill: S.B. 939) .

1779 Sec. 60. (Effective from passage) The Secretary of the State shall, within
1780 available appropriations, establish a method to allow for on-line voting
1781 by military personnel stationed out of state. In establishing such a
1782 method, the secretary shall look at what other states have done to
1783 reduce any potential for fraud in on-line voting and determine
1784 whether any such state’s on-line voting system could be appropriate
1785 for adapted use by this state. Not later than January 1, 2012, the
1786 secretary shall, in accordance with the provisions of section 11-4a of
1787 the general statutes, report any progress made toward establishing
1788 such a method to the joint standing committee of the General
1789 Assembly having cognizance of matters relating to elections.

Although the bill  mentions that the Secretary “shall look at what other states have done to reduce any potential for fraud in on-line voting and determine whether any such state’s on-line voting system could be appropriate for adapted use by this state” it does not make success in this necessary to the requirement to provide a means for Internet voting. The Secretary has no choice, in my reading, although there is no deadline for completion.

If you accept the science that global warming is caused by human activity – you have much more reason to oppose Internet voting.

If someone believes in Global Warming and that it is caused by human activity because the vast majority of scientists say so, then there is a much much more solid case against Internet voting in any form.  I just don’t understand why people believe scientists in one case when in reality the Internet voting case is much stronger:

  • Claiming Internet voting is safe and accurate violates an undisputed a basic proof of computer science (Turing’s  Halting Problem)
  • In practice no system has been proven safe, the one system subjected to public testing failed with all votes changed. All sorts of computer systems – business, government, and defense  – are regularly compromised. <some examples>

I wonder how the Secretary is supposed to implement Internet voting for 169 towns with no budget addition. Other states have paid significantly for Internet voting, while failing or neglecting to prove it safe.

The good news is the current bill only applies to Military voters, not all overseas voters.

The bad news it applies to any Military voters stationed outside Connecticut.

Here is my testimony against the standalone bill proposed and not passed by the Committee:

We oppose online voting, internet voting, email voting, and fax voting in general, for several reasons:

  • Internet Voting Is Technically Risky: The Computer Technologists Statement on Internet Voting details five technical challenges to such voting that have never been resolved and concludes: “The internet has the potential to transform democracy in many ways, but permitting it to be used for public elections without assurance that the results are verifiability accurate is an extraordinary and unnecessary risk to democracy.”
  • Internet Voting Has Proven Risky In Practice: In September 2010, Washington D.C. opened their proposed internet voting system to ethical hackers. With very short notice, the system was compromised, changing all past and future votes. Separately, the municipal network was entered, passwords to municipal systems obtained, and the list of codes for Internet voting for all voters in the November election were obtained. Internet voting for the election was canceled. Washington D.C. should be applauded for allowing the test, since other jurisdictions have not subjected their systems to such testing.
  • Internet voting can be expensive: West Virginia, about half the size of Connecticut, spent about $75,000 for 54 electronic votes.

I oppose this bill in particular because:

  • It contains no controls, specifications, or requirements for online voting. Would there be any public testing of such systems? Would there be any attempt to address the Technologists’ concerns or prevent problems similar to those in Washington, D.C?
  • It does not specify if such voting would be the responsibility of individual municipalities or the Secretary of the State.
  • It provides no funds either for the State or Municipalities to implement.
  • Could Connecticut accomplish centrally what Washington D.C. has not? Would it be constitutional?
  • Would each of Connecticut’s 169 municipalities be able to afford such systems and accomplish what Washington D.C. has not?
  • Would the system be optional by municipality? Different in each municipality? If implemented in only some, would it be unfair, violating Federal civil rights and voting laws?

Please join me and other technologists nationwide in opposing Internet voting.

Technologists’ Statement on Internet Voting <read>

PS: I have some other less serious concerns with this bill and another technical bill. In a few days I plan to review and comment on those concerns.


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