Scientists to Evaluate Internet Voting, Will Legislators Listen?

A project to evaluate Internet voting has been initiated by The Overseas Vote Foundation:  End-to-End Verifiable Internet Voting Project Announcement <read>

Their efforts aim to produce a system specification and set of testing scenarios, which if they meet the requirements for security, auditability, and usability, will then be placed in the public domain. At the same time, they intend to demonstrate that confidence in a voting system is built on a willingness to verify its security through testing and transparency.

“The secure, tested, certified remote voting systems that election officials envision aren’t even for sale. Available online ballot return systems are not considered secure by the scientific community, nor are they certified. As a result, email has become the default stopgap method for moving ballots online. Email is especially weak on security, yet it is being used regularly by election officials because viable alternatives are not available,” says Susan Dzieduszycka-Suinat, President and CEO of Overseas Vote Foundation, who spearheaded this project…

“There is a historical misunderstanding in the U.S. election community that this project aims to correct. Our country’s best scientists are not against technology advancements, nor are they inherently at odds with the election officials who seek technology improvements to meet their administrative challenges. What the U.S. scientific community takes issue with are the unproven claims of security regarding existing systems that are not publicly

tested or vetted. This study aims to recalibrate this situation. This group of scientific leaders has often pointed out security vulnerabilities in past systems, however they do agree on one thing: that if IV does happen, it should be in a system that takes advantage of end-to-end verifiability and auditability,” said Ms. Dzieduszycka-Suinat.

This promises to be an important project. The powerful team all but guarantees a significant, trusted result. Yet, what is critical is that officials and legislators fully understand the result and undertake any Internet voting following any detailed requirements developed by the study. Our own educated prediction is that reasonably safe Internet voting is likely to be judged possible, yet unlikely to be feasible. There are significant security challenges, especially if voting were to be performed from voters’ computers, without requiring sophisticated verification techniques on the part of voters, and expensive security provisions by officials.

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