Without a vast improvement in security, privacy and verification protocols, broad adoption of online voting – which has the potential to make voting easier and more accessible, improve turnout and reduce costs – is unlikely to take off, a new paper argues. For example, if a hacker steals money from a bank, retailer or another company, then the theft can be easily discovered and customers compensated for any loss. “Online voting poses a much tougher problem: lost votes are unacceptable,” writes the paper’s author, Peter Haynes, a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security. “And unlike paper ballots, electronic votes cannot be ‘rolled back’ or easily recounted. The twin goals of anonymity and verifiability within an online voting system are largely incompatible with current technologies,” he adds. The paper (pdf), which was released Oct. 8 and sponsored by Internet security company McAfee, spells out the pitfalls and advantages of online voting.
… In 2011 Estonian parliamentary elections, nearly a quarter of votes cast came from e-voting, according to May 2014 story from The Guardian that was cited in the paper. However, that article also said significant security flaws were found in Estonia’s system that could lead to fake votes or totals.
Haynes also cites an example in 2010 when Alex Halderman, a University of Michigan assistant professor of computer science, tested the integrity of Washington, D.C.’s Internet voting system. His team replaced votes that had been cast, connected voters names to their ballots, “and forced the system’s vote-confirmation screen to play his university’s fight song,” according to the paper.
“Online voting … is predicated on privacy, anonymity, and freedom from outside influence or coercion – but also on the absolute auditability that is necessary to guarantee the principle of ‘one person, one vote’ and to verify that each voter’s intent is reflected in the election’s outcome,” writes Haynes.