The State Board of Elections may move to implement an online ballot marking system for all absentee voters in time for this year’s elections, depending on an opinion from the attorney general. But some voter advocacy groups worry about the potential for fraud. The move to online ballot marking comes after a 2010 federal mandate that required states to provide overseas voters and active military personnel with access to online absentee ballot applications. The attorney general’s opinion, requested by Sen. Edward Kasemeyer, would say whether or not the elections board should seek federal and state certification for the online ballot marking tool. The board staff is currently developing the device through a Department of Defense grant. Certification would test the system and look for vulnerable areas, including where fraud or manipulation could occur. All whole voting systems are federally required to receive certification, but the state board argues the ballot marking tool would be only part of a voting system.
Some critics, including the voter integrity group SaveOurVotes, say that without proper federal and state certification, there is a high risk for voter fraud and a potential breach of security of voter information. “Voting system certification requirements exist to ensure that voting equipment conforms to consistent standards that safeguard our elections against tampering and error,” SaveOurVotes Co-Director Rebecca Wilson wrote in an April 30 letter to Attorney General Douglas Gansler. “Waiving certification requirements for such an undeveloped and untested system as this would set a dangerous precedent.”
The U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) offered an informal opinion on the matter in February at the request of State Elections Board Administrator Linda Lamone. The commission staff said that an online ballot marking wizard did not meet the definition of a voting system and therefore “was not considered eligible for testing and certification under the EAC program.” The Election Assistance Commission is supposed to have a five-member board, but it hasn’t had a quorum since December 2010 and currently has no board members serving.