Thousands of Arizona service members were offered the chance to cast a ballot over the internet in Tuesday’s special election, but state and county officials say the threat of hackers makes widespread online voting unlikely anytime soon. Election officials sent ballots to more than 4,000 Arizonans stationed out-of-state or overseas ahead of the election, either by mail or through the state’s relatively new online process. The number of ballots cast online wasn’t immediately available, but five counties distributed at least 2,172 electronic ballots, according to the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office. “I mean these people are overseas serving our country, serving us, so we want to make sure they’re able to vote,” said Maricopa County Recorder’s Office spokesperson Elizabeth Bartholomew. Maricopa County sent 1,205 electronic ballots to Arizonans in several countries, according to state data.
However, no form of online voting is secure yet from hackers, according to technology experts at a conference of the Election Verification Network this spring. Last year, a spokesperson for the Pentagon 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.”
… The other drawback of the system is that voters must waive their right to a secret ballot. “Their votes aren’t private anymore. They have to give up that right in order to give us back their ballot. Whereas other voters who vote regularly, we don’t know how they vote at all,” said Bartholomew.
Developing a system that keeps ballots secret while simultaneously ensuring voters are eligible and who they say they are is a major technology challenge, said Arizona Secretary of State’s Office spokesperson Matt Roberts. He said the switch to widespread online voting in Arizona may take a decade or more.