Every four years, America elects a president. And every four years around election time, Kim Alexander gets annoyed by the same question: Why can’t we vote over the internet yet? “I hate the question,” says Alexander, founder of the California Voter Foundation. Voting over the internet isn’t a priority for CVF, and won’t be for the foreseeable future. You would think an organization dedicated to “the responsible use of technology to improve the democratic process” would be for using the internet to make voting easier. Alexander did, too, once, back in the mid-’90s, shortly after she established CVF and the internet first entered the public consciousness. “But then I started to learn what about it takes to run secure elections, and how vulnerable the internet is,” Alexander says. “This internet is not a safe place to cast ballots.”
… Hackers wouldn’t even need to break into our voting system to ruin an election, says Pamela Smith of Verified Voting, a nonprofit whose mission is “safeguarding elections in the digital age.” Hackers could merely stage a distributed denial of service attack, in which they overwhelm a server with traffic, causing it to crash. One of the largest DDoS attacks in internet history occurred just two weeks ago, rendering a handful of the world’s largest websites (including Twitter, Reddit and Netflix) temporarily inaccessible. If that were to happen to a system collecting votes, the effect would be catastrophic, Smith says.
Voting over the internet would also make auditing an election nearly impossible, Smith adds. The most accurate elections involve both a paper and electronic record of a person’s vote, so they can be checked against each other in the event of a counting error. That option wouldn’t exist if all the votes exist solely in the cloud. “On a purely electronic voting system, you can see when odd things occur, but it’s hard to prove if they are odd and correct, or odd and wrong,” Smith says.