As Kentucky Democrats make a last-minute push to allow U.S. military to vote online, Florida is reporting what appears to be the first case of someone trying to manipulate U.S. voting through the Internet. A Miami-Dade County grand jury report reveals Internet requests from computers in locations such as Ireland, England and India sought more than 2,500 absentee ballots during the primary election last August. The report said officials blocked the ballots from going out when they saw “an extraordinary number” of ballot requests from the same group of computers. Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes said her proposal for Kentucky differs from the Florida system, which didn’t require users to sign in with a password. “That example isn’t applicable to what Kentucky is trying to do,” Grimes said. But Candice Hoke, a law professor and director of the Center For Election Integrity at Cleveland State University in Ohio, said the Florida case shows that Internet voting is a potential target and that there may have been other attempts to manipulate the voting that haven’t been uncovered.
“Not only are we dealing with a high-risk situation, we’re also dealing with state and local offices that are not equipped to deal with any kind of cyber defense,” Hoke said.
There have been instances where destructive computer programs have gotten into electronic voting systems in other states, but investigators weren’t able to pinpoint whether the voting systems were targeted or were just the victim of a broader hacking effort.
Hoke said even with roughly two-dozen states already allowing some form of electronic voting, the technology to ensure that it’s done safely won’t be available for a decade or more.