Utah Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox has convened a committee to study how the Beehive State might proceed with online voting. He has said Internet voting is inevitable, but his office agrees that security is the top concern. That is the correct attitude to assume as this effort proceeds. Security — the idea that a voter’s secret ballot is transmitted and tabulated correctly — must be nailed down and ensured beyond any reasonable doubt before anyone votes directly through the Internet. If voters lose confidence in the integrity of the election system, the notion of government by the people would be imperiled. We have yet to hear of any online effort that has successfully overcome these concerns. Norway, a pioneer in online voting, ended a three-year experiment with it last month, citing a lack of security. A small number of people there succeeded in voting twice by casting both online and paper ballots.
In this country, J. Alex Halderman, a computer scientist at the University of Michigan, has made a point of compromising online voter experiments, with the blessing of election officials. In 2010, he led a team that attacked a Washington, D.C. pilot project and, in short order, had its web site playing the Michigan fight song. But Halderman is a friend to the idea of Internet voting. He is just the sort of friend Utah needs — one who has the savvy to think and act like someone dedicated to hijacking an election.
In a world in which an increasingly large portion of commerce and communications are conducted online, voting and voter registration seem inevitable next steps. But those steps must be taken in the context of recent hacking scandals involving large retail outlets and the personal information of millions of shoppers. Businesses, while concerned with security, consider a certain amount of loss through theft to be a cost of doing business. Governments don’t have the luxury of accepting any amount of fraud in an election process.