Even as the Presidential Commission on Election Administration is still considering improvements to the U.S. election system, politicians on the local level are also looking at ways to address voting problems that came up in recent elections. The New York City Council Technology and Government Operations Committees on Wednesday held a hearing to consider the “Promise and Perils of Internet Voting” in municipal elections. Committee Chair Bronx City Council member Fernando Cabrera said he was drawn to the potential of Internet voting to address long lines, low voter turnout and save costs, citing successful precedents in other countries such as Estonia. Voter turnout in New York City’s recent mayoral general election hit a record low of 24 percent. Election officials and advocates cited security and cultural barriers to the widespread adoption of Internet voting, but pointed to other technological improvements that could help improve the voting process. New York City Board of Elections Executive Director Michael Ryan said he and other commissioners had not had enough time to come to a consensus on the issue. But he said he felt the cultural challenges would be one significant obstacle. “It would be a wholesale change really in the way business is done, right down to the way campaigns are run,” he said, noting the practice of poll watchers at polling places. “From a cultural perspective we’ve gotten very used to voting in a particular way … Voting is a private thing but yet a very public thing,” he said, noting the traditional gathering at polling places. “The resistance may be in the breaking down of the actual rituals more so than the technology itself.”
… In his questioning, Cabrera noted that online voting seemed logical given the prevalence of online financial transactions, online tax filing, online shopping and online student loans.
But officials testifying emphasized that voting is fundamentally different from those transactions. Because voting has to be secret, “you are unable to determine how a voter actually voted while still counting, the transaction is essentially, the transaction is essentially unauditable, unverifiable and subject to hacking,” said Doug Kellner, co-chair of the New York State Board of Elections. He also noted that banks suffer losses frequently “but that the bottom line is that eventually someone discovers the money is missing — when you steal a vote, you can’t the prove that the vote is missing because the vote is secret.” He pointed out that state election law expressly forbids voting machines in New York from including any device connected to the Internet. Regarding the possibility of improving the reporting of results, he said that an option of conducting the upload from the memory stick directly on the scanner should only be possible if “you could prove to us that the output would only go in one direction.”