Some Americans who lined up at the ballot boxes on Tuesday may have wished for the convenience of online voting. But cybersecurity experts continue to argue that such systems would be vulnerable to vote tampering — warnings that did not stop Alaska from allowing voters to cast electronic ballots in a major election that had both a Senate seat and the governorship up for grabs. There was no evidence of tampering during the first use of Alaska’s online voting system in 2012. But cybersecurity experts have gone on the record as saying that hackers could easily compromise or alter online voting results without being detected. Alaska’s own election site includes a disclaimer about votes cast through online voting or by fax. “When returning the ballot through the secure online voting solution, your are voluntarily waiving your right to a secret ballot and are assuming the risk that a faulty transmission may occur,” according to Alaska’s Division of Elections website. Alaskans can vote online by filling out an electronic ballot through a web-based interface, saving the file as a PDF and then transmitting the ballot to their county elections department. But cybersecurity experts told The Intercept that Alaska’s online voting system — developed by Scytl, a Spanish-based company — could be compromised by hackers from anywhere in the world. One expert’s team spent just a day to figure out how to remotely change the results on supposedly locked PDFs without being detected.
More than 30 U.S. states already allow members of the U.S. military deployed overseas to cast electronic ballots. But such voters must also accept a waiver saying they understand their vote may not be secret, according to Pamela Smith, president of Verified Voting, a nonprofit organization, in a USA Today interview.
The U.S. Department of Defense conducted a study of Internet voting security in 2011, but has refused to release the results despite multiple requests from state officials and activists. Such reluctance seems unlikely to encourage confidence in online voting security.