Four advocacy groups for elections and cybersecurity called Wednesday for the halt of a pilot project in West Virginia that allows military personnel posted overseas and other U.S. citizens living abroad to cast ballots for the 2018 midtersm using a smartphone app. “Military voters … deserve any help the government can give them to participate in democracy equally with all other citizens. However, in this threat environment, online voting endangers the very democracy the U.S. military is charged with protecting,” the groups said. Proponents argued that with voter turnout so low, technology like the app is worth the risk. The report was issued by the New York-based National Election Defense Coalition, the nonpartisan watchdog group Common Cause, the center-right think tank R Street Institute, and the Technology Policy Committee of the Association for Computing Machinery, a group that says it provides neutral input on issues involving computing technology.
Election security has become a top concern after the 2016 campaign, in which Russian hackers interfered with the presidential campaign and have since been accused of interfering in local campaigns as well. Federal officials have warned state and local governments that their systems could be compromised by hackers and they should take steps to tighten security.
A number of experts have voiced strong opposition to the mobile app voting program.
“Count me among the cybersecurity experts who are appalled at this idea,” said Ross Rustici, senior director of intelligence services at Cybereason, a Boston-based cybersecurity firm. “I would argue that it’s a matter of when, not if, that type of voting system gets compromised.”