Latest Internet voting reports show failures across the board

According to reports obtained by Al Jazeera America, Toronto found proposed Internet voting platforms below standards.

Internet voting, a technology often cited as a solution to the United States' problematic voting machines, received failing security and accessibility grades in the latest in-depth audit conducted by the City of Toronto. Two of the three vendors audited by the city currently have contracts with over a dozen U.S. jurisdictions for similar technologies.

The accessibility report, prepared by researchers at the Inclusive Design Research Centre at OCAD University, and the security report, prepared by researchers at Concordia and Western universities, were obtained by Al Jazeera America through a Freedom of Information Act request.

Proponents of Internet voting, largely disabilities groups and advocates for military voters overseas, point to the apparent ease-of-use of other Internet-based activities, such as banking, and claim the technology would lead to higher turnout rates.  

The reports highlight the difficulty in creating a voting system that isn't more susceptible to corruption than existing voting technology and that is easy enough to use for voters with a variety of personal computer setups, including those with disabilities who often use alternatives to traditional mice, keyboards and screens.

Thirty-one states in the U.S. allow overseas and military voters to print and deliver ballots electronically. A Pentagon unit, the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) has largely spearheaded the effort by funding state programs providing assistance to overseas troops and others. A nonprofit watchdog group, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, sued FVAP last month to force them to disclose their own audits of Internet voting conducted three years ago. In 2012 the program told Congress it would release the records to the public by the middle of 2013.

Other countries including Germany and the Netherlands have banned all forms of electronic voting, including Internet voting. Norway experimented with Internet voting in 2011 and 2013 for a select subset of voters. A recent government-commissioned report on the trial found that it did not increase voter turnout nor did it mobilize smaller demographic groups. Officials noted that increasing turnout was not an intended or expected outcome and it confirmed previous findings that voting was easier for some, but those with disabilities had issues with error messages, text contrast and other elements.

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