Mike Toomey Texas Lobbyist News: What Danger Do Future Elections Face from Hackers?
The following article is a digest of an article found at the Wall Street Journal in August of 2012. The Texas Lobby group is running this digest as a public service for Texas lobbyists, Texas government consultants, Texas political advisors and consultants, and other interested political parties.
It was only two years ago that hackers broke into an online voting system in the District of Columbia and altered the ballots to support their own candidates. They weren’t exactly trying to hide their tracks. Every ballot was marked with the University of Michigan fight song. Fortunately, the election was only a mock one, intended for testing purposes. The hackers were a team of graduate students who were making a point.
That point is that internet voting poses some real risks and may be a threat to our basic democratic process.
This fall, voters in thirty-one states will have eligibility for online votes, in one form or another. Most states are still shying away from out-right online voting, but do offer the possibility of downloaded ballots which are then emailed in to be counted along with the others. However, email is often notoriously unsecure and may even be the most unsecure aspect of online voter registration and ballot collection.
One possible solution is the use of so called “Wizards,” which are experimental voting portals that allow people to vote online but do not count those votes. The users get a digitally completed ballot that they filled out, but they must email it or print it and mail it in. But this is just one step away from true online, internet voting.
However, given the growing ubiquity of the internet and its continued progress into virtually every area of modern life, it is just a matter of time before people will cast their votes online. Scholars and technicians are currently working out a number of models designed to let this inevitable development occur in as secure a fashion as possible.
In discussion are “evidence based elections,” where all manner of electronic devices may be used both online and at polling places AS LONG AS A PROPER PAPER TRAILED IS CREATED. Any voting anomalies that are challenged may then be investigated with paper documentation.
One thing is sure: The next twenty years will see continued development of virtual polling and voting, a rise in attempts to cheat those systems, and a developing industry of voting security.