Written by Susannah Goodman, Pamela Smith
Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia allow military and overseas voters (not domestic voters) to return voted ballots by email, facsimile and/or other Internet transmission; six allowInternet return for military members in “hostile fire” zones, and one – Alaska -- allows it for all absentee voters. But Internet voting is very insecure; ballots returned this way are at risk for manipulation, loss or deletion.
According to the National Institute for Standards and Technology, the agency charged with reviewing the security of Internet voting systems, even the most sophisticated cyber security protections cannot secure voted ballots sent over the Internet and secure Internet voting is not feasible at this time. The integrity and reliable delivery of ballots returned electronically over online balloting systems – even those that employ security tools such as encryption or virtual private networks -- can’t be guaranteed.
Just as important, ballots sent by electronic transmission cannot be kept private. Most States which accept electronically transmitted ballots require voters to sign a waiver forfeiting the right to a secret ballot. In some cases, this waiver conflicts with state law or constitutional provisions which guarantee the right to a secret ballot.
In light of these facts, cybersecurity experts at the Department of Homeland Security have advised against sending marked ballots back via email or Internet portal. Moreover, the Department of Defense’s Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) has advised that postal return of voted ballots is the most responsible method of ballot return.