Internet voting is unachievable for the
foreseeable future and therefore not inevitable.
By BARBARA SimonS AnD DouGLAS W. JonES
in the u.S.
tHe AssertiOn tHAt Internet voting is the wave of
the future has become commonplace. We frequently
are asked, “If I can bank online, why can’t I vote
online?” The question assumes that online banking
is safe and secure. However, banks routinely and
quietly replenish funds lost to online fraud in order to
maintain public confidence.
We are told Internet voting would help citizens
living abroad or in the military who currently have
difficulty voting. Recent federal legislation to improve
the voting process for overseas citizens is a response
to that problem. The legislation, which has eliminated
most delays, requires states to provide downloadable
blank ballots but does not require the insecure return
of voted ballots.
Yet another claim is that email voting is safer
than Web-based voting, but no email program in
widespread use today provides direct support for
encrypted email. As a result, attachments are generally
sent in the clear, and email ballots are easy to intercept
and inspect, violating voters’ right to a secret ballot.
Intercepted ballots may be modified or discarded without forwarding.
Moreover, the ease with which a From
header can be forged means it is relatively simple to produce large numbers
of forged ballots. These special risks
faced by email ballots are in addition to
the general risks posed by all Internet-based voting schemes.
Many advocates also maintain that
Internet voting will increase voter par-
ticipation, save money, and is safe. We
find the safety argument surprising in
light of frequent government warn-
ings of cybersecurity threats and news
of powerful government-developed
viruses. We see little benefit in mea-
sures that might improve voter turn-
out while casting doubt on the integ-
rity of the results.a
Almost all the arguments on behalf
of Internet voting ignore a critical risk
Internet-based voting shares with
all computerized voting—wholesale
theft. In the days of hand-counted
paper ballots, election theft was con-
ducted at the retail level by operatives
at polling places and local election
offices. By contrast, introduction of
computers into the voting process
created the threat that elections can
be stolen by inserting malware into
code on large numbers of machines.
The situation is even more dangerous
with Internet voting, since both the
central servers and the voters’ com-
puters are potentially under attack
a Portions of this article are taken from the
book Broken Ballots: Will Your Vote Count? by
Douglas W. Jones and Barbara Simons, CSLI
Publications, Stanford, CA, 2012; http://bro-
internet voting is fundamentally insecure.
most people do not associate widely
publicized computer viruses and worms
with internet voting.
internet voting is being pushed in many
countries by vendors, election officials,
and well-meaning people who do not
understand the risks.