smartphones will be nearly universal
and could have a cost-per-vote of essentially zero. To make voting as easy
as possible for the greatest number
of citizens, we must take the condemnation of online voting as a challenge
rather than a prohibition.
Paper ballots, filled out at a polling
station and counted by optical scanners, have been endorsed by a number
of computer scientists and voting rights
groups. Although the method ranks
high on transparency and auditabil-ity, it is as fraught with inequities and
security problems as are the software
apps on mobile devices. The only vir-
WHEN IT COMESto elections, nine of 10 security ex- pertsagreethatcellulose is safer than electricity.a The best way to vote,
they say, is to take the horse-and-buggy
down to town on election day, mark
up a paper ballot, and put it in a ballot
box. The very thought of online voting
is anathema. Yet, the status quo in voting is hardly secure, and online voting is
inevitable. The agenda for concerned security experts should be to assure online
voting is more secure than paper voting.
If 60 years of computer security research
cannot yield the solution, then it has
been going in the wrong direction.
The nay-saying experts are not
Luddites, exactly. They recognize the
evolution of the field of computer
security has followed an arc with its
greatest successes in practical solutions to common problems (virus
scanning, public key protocols for
website verification and privacy, constant inspection and testing for system security errors) rather than in
complex, infrequent use cases. Election requirements for assuring a democratically elected government go be-
a Expert sign-on letter to Congress: Secure
American elections. Discourage voters from
voting online in any form—via Web, email,
or fax—even in states where it is legal. Inform
voters that electronically submitted ballots
can be modified, copied, rerouted, or simply
deleted during transmission; see https://bit.
yond the usual needs of commerce
Even as voting technology is recognized as critical infrastructure,b the
cost of paper elections burdens government. A small number of local officials
are the arbiters of how much to spend
on ballots and machines and IT infrastructure. Their solutions are often
draconian, discriminatory, and unsafe.
In contrast, Internet access through
b Statement by Secretary Jeh Johnson on the designation of election infrastructure as a critical
infrastructure subsector. DHS Archive (2017);
Privacy and Security
Online Voting: We Can Do It!
(We Have To)
Seeking to make online voting more secure
than today’s flawed paper systems.
˲ Carl Landwher, Column Editor
Election officials check voters’ identification documentation during midterm election voting
at Key School, Arlington, VA, USA, circa November 2018.