As Chicagoans trek to the polls Tuesday for the city’s first-ever mayoral runoff election, some may wonder why they can’t yet vote from the palms of their hands. “For me the biggest benefit of online voting would be convenience,” said K.C. Horne, a 26-year-old accountant from Edgewater. “If I can file my taxes from my phone, I should be able to vote from my phone.” But so far, both technological and legislative hurdles have sharply limited the use of online voting. One major difference: The need to keep the user’s identity secret makes filing ballots different from other secure online transactions. “It’s an unconventional transaction where you have to be able to do business with me, but I can’t know exactly what you’re buying,” said Chicago Board of Election Commissioners spokesman Jim Allen.
… J. Alex Halderman, an assistant professor of computer science and engineering at the University of Michigan, researches and identifies security flaws in voting technology and does not anticipate wide adoption soon. “The shape of the problem is fundamentally different than things we routinely do online today,” he said.
Halderman pointed to his own hacking of Washington D.C.’s online voting pilot in 2010. Within 48 hours, Halderman and his team remotely exploited a flaw in the public test held prior to the election. It took officials another two days to figure out the hack had happened. That all but put an end to that online voting plan, though voters could still mail in printed ballots, the New York Times reported.
High-profile elections to decide Chicago’s next mayor or the country’s next president would likely be more vulnerable to sophisticated attacks, potentially by global perpetrators, than the smaller elections Everyone Counts has been used for, Halderman said. “I think in order to do online voting securely, they’re going to have to solve some of the hardest problems in computer security,” Halderman said.