States trying to make it easier for troops overseas to vote have set up voting systems that are vulnerable to hacking when they allow voters to return ballots online, via e-mail, or Internet fax, says a state-by-state report to be released today. The report, Counting Votes 2012, by the Verified Voting Foundation and Common Cause Education Fund, says all states should require overseas ballots to be mailed because even faxed ballots can’t be independently audited. “They’re trying to do a calculus and make it easy for the voter, and they may not realize the great risk they’re putting those votes at,” says Pam Smith of the Verified Voting Foundation, a group that advocates accuracy and verifiability of election returns. The report also rates states on their ability to accurately count votes, and it warns that progress away from paperless voting — which leaves nothing to recount in a dispute — has been halted by the lagging economy.
That’s a concern as the nation heads for what is likely to be a very close presidential election in November. The report, an update of a 2008 study, says the least-prepared states to handle voting system problems are Colorado, Delaware, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and South Carolina. Top marks for preparedness go to Minnesota, New Hampshire, Ohio, Vermont and Wisconsin. A 2009 federal law aimed at improving voting rates among military personnel required states to begin providing election materials such as registration forms and blank ballots electronically to citizens overseas. The law didn’t specify how the ballots would be returned once they were marked.
Thirty-one states allow servicemembers and other overseas voters to return their ballots electronically: via fax, e-mail, by voting on a secure website, or some combination. Only one state that permits electronic ballot return, New Jersey, also requires voters to mail in a paper version. Overseas military can use free express mail to return their marked ballots, a provision of the 2009 law. “Internet voting is not ready for prime time. The security environment is not what it needs to be to cast ballots over the Internet,” says Susannah Goodman of Common Cause’s Voting Integrity Campaign, one of the report’s authors. When Washington, D.C., set up a pilot Internet voting program in 2010 and invited hackers to try to corrupt it, a University of Michigan team hacked the system to change votes and even play the school fight song.
Full Article: State systems for overseas voters vulnerable – USATODAY.com.