After multiple hacks of Democratic Party e-mail systems and fears of Russian cyber attacks on the U.S. election, paper ballots have taken on an unexpected appeal. Online voting software companies are convinced convenience-loving Americans will increasingly push to cast their ballots on smartphones and laptops, and they’re working to make that happen. But voter advocates, election officials and others are still leery of the risks involved in conducting elections over the all-too-vulnerable internet. For now, fears about voting security may be giving paper-ballot backers the upper hand where it matters most: Americans’ confidence in the integrity of the election system. “In recent weeks, reports on cyber attacks have voters questioning whether their vote will actually count, and that, in my opinion, is more damaging than the potential for hacking,” Louisiana Secretary of State Tom Schedler told a House committee meeting Sept. 13. The best voting system, he said, is the one which “people of that state feel comfortable voting.”… The U.S. Election Assistance Commission—which develops voluntary guidelines, tests and certifies voting hardware and software—has not certified any internet voting systems. A commission spokesman told Bloomberg BNA it was not clear if an update to its technical guidelines—slated for 2018—would include language about online voting systems. However, the guidelines committee adopted a list of priorities in September 2016 which include discussions on the risks and benefits of electronically returning ballots.
During a House Science, Space and Technology Committee hearing on voting and cybersecurity Sept. 13, several witnesses told lawmakers they didn’t support expanding online voting. Moving voters online would increase the risk of cyber attacks, Dan Wallach, electronic voting system specialist and professor of computer science at Rice University, told the committee. Louisiana’s Schedler said when people ask him when they will be able to vote on the internet, his answer is, “I hope never.”
Voter advocacy groups, technologists and election officials say online voting software isn’t ready for public use. “Currently there isn’t a technology that is commercially available today that can protect our election integrity and ballot secrecy—it’s just not there,” said Susannah Goodman, director of Common Cause’s national Voting Integrity Campaign. … Those who support expanding internet voting are “people who have no idea how hostile the internet environment is,” Joseph Lorenzo Hall, chief technologist and director of the Internet Architecture project at the Center for Democracy and Technology, told Bloomberg BNA.
… In 2014, University of Michigan researchers said “state-level attackers” and “sophisticated online criminals” could hack Estonia’s country-wide internet voting system—which has since become a joint venture of the country’s original operator and Smartmatic. An online voting pilot program in Washington D.C. was scrapped in 2010 after hackers took over the system in a matter of hours. “Sometimes old school is better, it’s not always the latest technology that works best,” Pamela Smith, president of Verified Voting, a nonprofit organization that advocates for accuracy of elections, told Bloomberg BNA.