Online voting has the potential to boost election participation around the world, but is not yet ready to be widely rolled out due to security risks, a study released Wednesday said. The research, produced by the Atlantic Council think tank and the online protection firm McAfee, concluded that “security will need to be vastly improved” before it becomes feasible to adopt Internet voting on a large scale. According to the study, online voting faces more complex obstacles than electronic commerce, where a customer can be reimbursed in the case of fraud or theft. “Online voting poses a much tougher problem” than e-commerce, the report said. “Lost votes are unacceptable… and unlike paper ballots, electronic votes cannot be ‘rolled back’ or easily recounted.”
The report said hackers could paralyze an online voting system or, even worse, change the results without being detected. A major problem of online voting is that any system must verify the identity of the voter, and at the same time guarantee anonymity in the process. Some experts believe it could be decades before online voting becomes mainstream.
Joseph Hall of the Center for Democracy and Technology said that many security experts believe “the timeline will be 30 to 40 years” before the technological hurdles to online voting are overcome.
One of the problems is the “uncontrolled platform,” in which voting software or computers can be infected, Hall said at a discussion hosted by the Atlantic Council.