Mr. President: Improve voting, shorten lines with optical scanning. Avoid the risks of Internet Voting

We have signed a second letter to President Obama addressing and recommending solutions to the concerns he shares, with the problems this past November.

We agree wholeheartedly with your call to eliminate long lines in voting. Citizens should not have to choose between waiting for hours to exercise their right to vote or being disenfranchised. However, our nation was lucky. The Presidential election results could have been much closer, and there could have been disputes about who rightfully won. Since many swing states still use computerized directrecording electronic voting machines (DREs – typically touch screens) that produce results that cannot be independently verified, recounts would have been impossible. Well-designed voting systems allow verification of the results without reliance on software.

The use of paper ballots counted by optical scan machines has proven to be effective at avoiding the problems that resulted in long lines in many states. If a voter is required to mark his or her entire ballot on a DRE, and if there is an insufficient number of DREs, long lines such as those that occurred in the recent election are inevitable…

Internet voting (the return of voted ballots over the Internet including fax and e-mail) has been proposed as a solution to long lines at the polls. But since it is vulnerable to attacks from anyone/anywhere, Internet voting must not be allowed at this time. In addition to security and accuracy risks, Internet voting threatens the secret ballot, which is key to avoiding voter coercion and vote buying and selling. The secret ballot was originally instituted not as a right that an individual can waive, but rather as an obligation of the government to protect all citizens from coercion and intimidation as they cast their votes. Because of multiple intrinsic risks, Internet voting should be forbidden unless and until proposed systems have undergone extensive, independent public review and open testing to ensure that they have solved the fundamental problems of security, privacy, authentication, and verification.

For more, we suggest reading Doug Chapin’s excellent summary  You’ve Got Mail, Mr. President: Two New Letters Weigh In on Voting Technology Issues <read>

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