A Pentagon official sat before a committee of the Washington State Legislature in January and declared that the U.S. military supported a bill that would allow voters in the state to cast election ballots via email or fax without having to certify their identities. Military liaison Mark San Souci’s brief testimony was stunning because it directly contradicted the Pentagon’s previously stated position on online voting: It’s against it. Along with Congress, the Defense Department has heeded warnings over the past decade from cybersecurity experts that no Internet voting system can effectively block hackers from tampering with election results. And email and fax transmissions are the most vulnerable of all, according to experts, including officials at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, which is part of the Commerce Department. San Souci declined to comment. A Pentagon spokesman, Lt. Cmdr. Nathan Christensen, said the Defense Department “does not advocate for the electronic transmission of any voted ballot, whether it be by fax, email or via the Internet.”
A nonprofit watchdog group is suing an obscure Defense Department unit over its failure for three years to disclose the results of testing on the security safeguards of Internet voting systems that are increasingly being used to cast absentee ballots. The Pentagon unit, the Federal Voting Assistance Program, has effectively bankrolled many states’ shift to online voting, disbursing tens of millions of dollars in grants for the purchase of equipment that includes Internet balloting options. Its actions have drawn consternation from cyber experts, who have warned for years that Internet voting is an easy target for hackers who could tamper with or even fix election results. The government’s premier technology testing agency also has refused to endorse these systems. Now, on the eve of another federal election in which at least 31 states plan to use some form of online voting, the Electronic Privacy Information Center is pressing a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit demanding disclosure of the test results so it can disseminate the information nationwide.
A multiagency effort is underway to modernize the mail delivery system to improve delivery of election materials to military and overseas voters, the director of the Federal Voting Assistance Program said here today. Matt Boehmer testified before the Senate Rules and Administration Committee on how the Defense Department is improving ballot accessibility. “The Military Postal Service Agency is serving as the lead agency in an effort with the Department of State and the United States Postal Service to lead an effort to modernize military mail delivery,” he said. Boehmer said the department recognized the time required to redirect mail once it has arrived overseas hinders the ability to cast an absentee ballot. “The system will redirect election material to military and diplomatic addresses similar to how the civilian change-of-address system works,” he said, noting it should be available in October. Boehmer noted Congress and the judicial system repeatedly have affirmed that voting is a citizen’s most fundamental right. “The Federal Voting Assistance Program is committed to two voting assistance tenets: promoting the awareness of the right to vote, and eliminating barrier for those who choose to exercise that right,” he said.
U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) joined with Senate colleagues today to introduce The Safeguarding Elections for our Nation’s Troops through Reforms and Improvements (SENTRI) Act, S.1728. The bill will expand access to voting for military voters and improve voting assistance opportunities. “It is unacceptable that our service members and their families are facing hurdles when attempting to exercise one of the most fundamental rights they fight and sacrifice to protect—the right to vote.
National: DOD slams report that military absentee ballots are down due to DOD error | Washington Examiner
Defense Department spokesman George Little said he takes “strong issue” with the Military Voter Protection Project report showing a major decline in requests for absentee ballots among service members. “The data in that report, we believe, is quite old,” Little told reporters at the Pentagon today. “It’s important to remember that the number of deployed members in the war-zones has declined significantly.”