Maryland’s Board of Elections fell one vote short last year of the super-majority needed to inch the state toward online on-line voting, despite cyber experts’ warnings that such balloting could easily be hacked, with votes even switched to other candidates. Now, three months before this fall’s elections, the issue has morphed into a legal battle pitting the blind vs. the blind. It’s a fight with plenty of intrigue behind it and nationwide implications in the debate over whether cyber security is ready for electronic voting. The National Federation of the Blind Inc., which touts itself as the recognized voice of blind Americans and their families, filed a federal court suit in May seeking to compel the state elections board to make its newly developed online ballot-marking system available so that all disabled people could cast absentee ballots via the internet this fall. It’s a suit that likely wasn’t unwelcome to the three board members who voted to implement the system and to state Election Director Linda Lamone, a big advocate of electronic voting. But over the weekend, the American Council of the Blind of Maryland, along with three blind residents and two nonprofit groups that have fought internet voting, intervened in the case filed in Baltimore. They contend that the board’s online balloting tool is both flawed and insecure.
… Alex Halderman, an assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer sciences at the University of Michigan who hacked into a proposed online voting system in the District of Columbia during a 2010 test run, believes that Maryland’s proposed system would put disabled voters “in greater danger of having their votes manipulated or revealed than non-disabled voters,” the Council’s suit said.
“Several members of the State Board of Elections and state election director Lamone expressed intent to certify and implement this system – in agreement with the same people that are suing them – even though the Board’s own study found the system was inaccessible to people with visual impairments,” said Robert Ferraro, co-director of SAVE our Votes, one of the two watchdog groups that intervened. “Perhaps this is why the Board didn’t submit to the court the accessibility study or raise the security issues that have been documented,” he said. “We felt we needed to intervene for all the facts to be heard and for the voters of MD to be properly represented.”
Verifiedvoting.org, a group that has campaigned for a verifiable paper trail for all electronic votes, is also among the interveners. Maryland’s proposed absentee system, which allows voting from home, does not leave a verifiable paper trail.