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Is Online Voting Reliable Enough?

Online VotingWelcome to election day, 2012. Today, 130 to 140 million people will cast their votes for America’s next president in one of the more anticipated elections in recent history. But not everyone will be heading to the local voting booth to do his or her part. Some states now allow online voting as way to increase voter turnout.

Is online voting secure enough to eventually make it the primary method of voting? Someday it may be. But for now, the consequences are probably just too risky.

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, New Jersey implemented an alternative to the voting booth for those displaced by the storm. Residents can now use email (yes I said email) to submit their votes today. Talk about a scary alternative.  Computer-security expert Matt Blaze explains:

“The security implications of voting by e-mail are, under normal conditions, more than sufficient to make any computer security specialist recoil in horror. E-mail, of course, is not at all authenticated, reliable, or confidential, and that by itself opens the door to new forms of election mischief that would be far more difficult in a traditional in-person polling station or with paper absentee ballots.”

The main issue is that officials have no way of accurately verifying all of the votes submitted online and via email.  While New Jersey is not expected to be a close race, this would be a major concern where the vote is only separated by a few.  Case in point: Florida in 2000 between Al Gore and George W. Bush where votes had to be recounted by hand to determine the results.  Who knows what would have happened if these votes were made by email or online and the accuracy could not be double-checked.

Despite these concerns, some states are embracing online voting as a way to counter low voter turnout.

Oregon, for example, allowed disabled persons to vote with iPads during a special election in November 2011 and will continue in 2012.

Oregon is also one of 11 states that currently or will soon let residents register to vote online as long as they have a valid identification card. All other states require voter registration in person or by mail.

This raises a major question – are the online software and communication tools used to vote actually secure enough? It has a number of pros, most importantly increasing voter turnout.

But the implications of potential fraud are frightening. If the wrong person is put into office due to inaccuracy or tampering of online voting, the consequences may be irreversible.

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Posted: November 6th, 2012
Categories: General
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