Internet Voting: U.S. Representative Rush Holt responds to the New York Times

U.S. Representative Rush Holt responds to the New York Times: <read>

To the Editor:

Re “States Move to Allow Overseas and Military Voters to Cast Ballots by Internet” (news article, May 9):

As you reported, as part of a broader effort to facilitate military and overseas voting, Congress authorized states to conduct pilot projects for Internet voting. Internet voting will be less secure and secret than the hard-copy ballot return for our service personnel already provided for and paid for by the law. It’s important to note that the pilot projects are voluntary.

Most states — but not all — now require a paper ballot or record for every vote cast and routine random audits of electronic vote tallies. These measures are critical to ensuring that every vote, including votes of military personnel, counts and is counted accurately.

Rather than experimenting with less secure, less auditable methods of voting, I hope that states will use the 2010 election cycle to confirm how much more convenient, accessible and secure the Move Act, which I was otherwise pleased to support, makes military and overseas voting.

Rush Holt
Member of Congress, 12th Dist., N.J.
Washington, May 18, 2010

Last summer I asked Represtentative Holt about these provisions, after he spoke at a conference in Montreal.  He was surprised that the MOVE Act contained the provision for piloting (actual votes) Internet voting.

For the New York Times piece: See our earlier post: Damn the science; Damn the integrity; If it feels good do it!

Also, read what are troops are reading in the Stars and Stripes: Benefits, risks of e-mail ballots weighed <read>

An increasing number of states will offer Americans living overseas a chance to return their completed ballots over the Internet this November.

But cybersecurity experts and voter advocates contend that these well-intentioned efforts ignore the technical vulnerabilities of sending a voted ballot as an e-mail attachment, potentially subjecting this midterm contest to electronic vote rigging and hacking.

Sixteen states will allow ballots to be e-mailed back to the States, while 29 states and territories will allow the faxing of completed ballots, according to the Pentagon’s Federal Voting Assistance Program. Some states will allow this electronic transmission only in emergency situations or within certain counties.

State election officials say that despite security concerns, transmitting voted ballots over the Internet will help ensure more overseas Americans get their vote counted, improving the dismal return rates among overseas voters.

But despite the best intentions of politicians and election officials, the potential for manipulation of e-mailed ballots is rife because of the very nature of most e-mail — an easily accessible system that is used by many but understood by few, according to David Jefferson of the? Verified Voting Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to publicly verifiable elections.

“The best analogy,” Jefferson said, “is what would it be like if you conducted an election where people voted in absentee ballots with pencil, on a postcard which isn’t even in an envelope, and it was delivered hand to hand to hand to the county. That’s an analogy to how e-mail works.”

“E-mail itself isn’t secure,” said Susan Dzieduszycka-Suinat, president of the Overseas Vote Foundation. “It doesn’t go direct from one computer to another. It has quite a few stops, and at every stop the content can be manipulated.”…

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