New Report Emphasizes Threat Posed by Online Voting, Urges Nationwide E-Ballot Quarantine
Minimum of Nearly 100,000 Ballots Reportedly Cast Online in 2016
On October 9, 2018, leading experts in the field of election security released a report outlining the serious and unaddressed threat to the integrity of the nation’s elections and democracy posed by the continued use of online voting in 32 states. The report highlights that at the very least nearly 100,000 ballots were reported to have been cast online in the 2016 general election. The report, “Email and Internet Voting: The Overlooked Threat to Election Security,” examines the threats faced by various forms of online voting, emphasizes that online voting must be discontinued completely by 2020, and recommends short-term best practices for voters and elections officials in the 2018 election.
The report was jointly released by experts in the field of election security from National Election Defense Coalition (NEDC), R Street Institute, Association for Computing Machinery US Technology Policy Committee (ACM USTPC), and Common Cause.
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Experts in the private sector, government and military have studied the feasibility of internet-based voting for years and concluded that it is not secure and should be curtailed. Despite those conclusions, and repeated warnings from leaders of the U.S. Intelligence apparatus of ongoing attacks on our nation’s election system by foreign nations, voters are already casting ballots online in the 2018 election.
“We know foreign actors are trying to interfere with our elections,” said Susan Greenhalgh, Policy Director of the National Election Defense Coalition. “We can no longer ignore the fact that tens of thousands of ballots are cast online, exposing those ballots and our election systems to hacking threats. It's time for the EAC and DHS to provide much needed guidance to election officials and state lawmakers to close this security hole in our election infrastructure.”
“Americans expect and deserve to have their ballots counted as cast, but every ballot cast online is at risk of being altered,” said Susannah Goodman, Director of Election Security at Common Cause. “We know ballots cast by email and through internet portals creates an attack vector because they can be intercepted and deleted or altered. But we also know that we can recover from any attack if voters cast ballots on paper. Paper can’t be hacked and if we have paper we can audit the election results to ensure that any miscounts are caught.”
“Men and women in uniform risk their lives every day to defend our democracy,” said Retired Lt. Colonel Anthony Shaffer, a Senior Fellow at the London Center who wrote a forward for the report. “In this growing cyberthreat environment, online voting endangers the very democracy they are charged with protecting. We owe our service personnel a means of voting in which they are assured that their votes cannot be compromised and used against the very democratic institutions they are sworn to protect.”
“Internet voting is the soft underbelly of election security,” said Paul Rosenzweig, Senior Fellow at the R Street Institute. “We should proceed cautiously and not further embrace this systemic vulnerability.”
“The threat is complicated, but the solution is simple: no state serious about election security will encourage or enable internet voting. Period,” said Jeremy Epstein, Vice Chair of the Association for Computing Machinery US Technology Policy Committee. “Every ballot sent over the internet might as well say ‘Please Hack’ in bold letters across the top in the language of every nation that we know has attempted to interfere with American elections. [Worse yet, a single hacked ballot can afford entry to and corruption of entire election management systems and thousands or millions of votes.] Internet voting is dangerous to democracy.”
An incomplete national survey conducted by the Election Assistance Commission found that at a bare minimum nearly 100,000 voters cast their ballots online in 2016. In reality that number is likely to be far higher and the threat to the integrity to U.S. elections from online voting is profound and unaddressed.
The ease with which hackers can alter electronically transmitted ballots without being detected is laid bare in this revealing 2 minute video from McClatchy News, filmed in August at the DefCon hacking convention in Las Vegas: https://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/nation-world/national/national-security/article216610445.html