A new Maryland law allowing voting by mail with a ballot downloaded online has some voter advocacy groups alarmed that adequate security measures will not be in place for the 2014 elections. Election Day voter registration and the future of online voting were also among the hot button issues debated at a forum this week, hosted by the Maryland League of Women Voters in Annapolis. The bill, Election Law – Improving Access to Voting, extends the right to all Maryland absentee voters to download and mark their ballots online. Ballots would then be mailed in to local election boards rather than tallied online. Previously only overseas voters and military personnel were allowed by law to obtain and mark ballots on the Internet. Under Maryland’s no-excuse absentee voting law, any Maryland voter is allowed to receive an absentee ballot without having to provide a reason for being absent on Election Day. Cyber-security hawks like Rebecca Wilson of SAVE our Votes said Maryland has no process for examining voter’s handwritten signatures that are required for all the new potential mailed in absentee ballots. “Maryland is moving increasingly to vote by mail,” Wilson said. “How does the [election official] know the person on the computer is the real voter?” Wilson cited four western states that either vote entirely by mail — Washington and Oregon – or by a large percentage – California and Colorado.
“They do it a little differently than we do it in Maryland,” Wilson said . “They examine the handwritten signature on every ballot they receive and compare it to records of that voter’s signature to make sure the person who mailed in the ballot is the voter. They know that authenticating the voter on the front end is not as effective as authenticating the ballots that are returned by those voters.”
Wilson cited a Florida voter fraud case where absentee ballots were requested online and mailed to the voter. It was later determined by the FBI, Wilson said, that a lot of requests were coming from the same IP address. “None of those voters had requested ballots,” she said.
Wilson acknowledged that some new safeguards – such as including the last four numbers of a voter’s social security number and the date a driver’s license was issued – were added through legislative efforts this year. But she says, it is still unknown how well the security will work considering how easy it is to obtain a person’s driver’s license number and other personal information off the Internet.