Voters may get to skip the lines at the polls this summer by receiving and marking their ballots online, but election officials must first decide if the convenience outweighs the security risks. The State Board of Elections will vote this month on using a new online ballot marking system, which includes electronic delivery of absentee ballots, in the June 24 gubernatorial primary election. But voter advocates and security hawks warned in recent months that poor authentication methods — as well as inconsistent online requirements — make the system vulnerable to voter fraud. For one online ballot request option, requesting an absentee ballot requires only a voter’s name and date of birth. For another, the voter’s driver’s license number, issuance date and last four digits of their social security number is required. Information for either format can be easily obtained, advocates say. Under Maryland’s “no-excuse” absentee voter policy, any voter can request an absentee ballot without providing a reason for needing one.
Deputy Election Administrator, Nikki Charlson, conceded that current security measures for the front end of the system — where voter fraud is most likely to occur — are imperfect. “We might not be able to prevent someone who has illegally obtained information [from entering the system],” Charlson said. “But what we can try to do is detect it on the back end, and we have many things in place that can do that.”
Michael Greenberger, a University of Maryland law professor who presented his own security assessment findings to the state board in March, has urged the state board to have ballots mailed to the voter’s “brick and mortar” address until more security measures are put in place. “There is significant potential for fraud, delayed election results and violations of ballot secrecy,” Greenberger said.