A new system unveiled Monday will help overseas South Dakota military personnel exercise their right to vote even as they defend that right for those at home, Secretary of State Jason Gant said Monday. It will make it easier for military personnel to obtain absentee ballots and register to vote. That process can take as long as 60 days now, but the new system will allow ballots to be filled out in a few minutes. No other state is doing anything like it, Gant said. “We wanted to truly be innovative in the country,” Gant said. “We didn’t want to copy what another state had done.” The system will enable service members to use the cameras on electronic devices, such as iPads or smartphones, to scan the bar code on their common access cards, the identification cards issued to all service members. … While the system uses online technology, it is not online voting because it requires users to print and mail the ballot. Online voting is controversial because opponents fear that voting information can be intercepted or altered.
The Department of Defense abandoned an online voting project 10 years ago amid concerns that the Internet is not secure enough to build voting systems.
“Election information is subject to change, modification, tampering, loss, whatever, when it’s traveling through communication channels,” said Pamela Smith, the president of Verified Voting, a national group that supports voting systems that can be verified.
Smith said it’s “outstanding” that South Dakota military personnel will have a new way to get an electronic ballot. But she had concerns about military personnel marking ballots online before printing their ballots. Unless the ballot is downloaded directly to the user’s computer, that information would be on a computer server, which could also raise concerns about privacy or manipulation.