Testimony: Worse than online voting, fax and email voting

Today we submitted testimony against Senate Bill 647 to the Veterans’ Affairs Committee on a bill to allow email and fax return of votes for Military voters. The bill:

AN ACT CONCERNING VOTING BY MEMBERS OF THE MILITARY SERVING OVERSEAS.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Assembly convened:

That sections 9-153e and 9-153f of the general statutes be amended to allow any member of the armed forces who is an elector serving overseas, or the member’s spouse or dependent if living where such member is stationed, to return their absentee ballot by electronic mail or facsimile.

Statement of Purpose:

To allow military persons serving overseas to return their ballot by electronic mail or facsimile.

From our testimony:

I applaud this Committee for holding hearings on this Unconstitutional, Risky, Unnecessary, and Discriminatory bill. Last year, without hearings, this concept it was placed far down in an unrelated emergency bill.

Compared with Online voting email and fax voting is a riskier, cheaper alternative:

Email and Fax Voting Is More Risky Than Online Voting:

  • Every week we hear of the compromise of email, databases, and severs maintained by large businesses and government agencies.
  • We are all familiar with emails and faxes, we send or are sent    to us, never being received. All network communications are subject to interception, substitution, or deletion. Military voters and registrars are not exempt from these problems.
  • ·         President Obama has called the protection of government and private information and communications networks “one of the most serious … security challenges of the 21st century,” (Hartford Courant May 30, 2009.)

Registrars Are Not Equipped To Implement Email Or Fax Voting:

  • Currently some towns do not provide Internet to their registrars and some do not provide email.
  • Frequently, published email addresses for registrars are out of date.
  • To whom would soldiers email votes? The Democratic or Republican Registrar? To a common email account? Who will process that? How can anyone be sure ballots that successfully arrive at an email account are not dropped or changed?
  • Who manages the Fax? Who can see or discard the ballots that come via the Fax?

We quote Governor Malloy’s veto message on the Constitutionality of a similar bill last year:

I agree with Secretary of the State Denise Merrill that this provision raises a number of serious concerns. First, as a matter of policy, I do not support any mechanism of voting that would require an individual to waive his or her constitutional rights in order to cast a timely, secret ballot, even if such waiver is voluntary. Second, as the Secretary of the State has pointed out, allowing an individual to email or fax an absentee ballot has not been proven to be secure. In 2011, the United States Department of Commerce, National Institute of Standards and Technology, issued a report on remote electronic voting. The report concluded that remote electronic voting is fraught with problems associated with software bugs and potential attacks through malicious software, difficulties with voter authentication, and lack of protocol for ballot accountability.

We will be disappointed, but not surprised if the Veterans’ Affairs Committee ignores the discriminatory nature of this proposal, as we said:

This Bill Is Discriminatory: Many overseas voters are veterans but not members of the Military. Some serve in remote areas or challenging conditions. Including: State Department, CIA, and NGO staffs, plus Military Contractors, and Peace Corps volunteers.

And Unnecessary:

This Bill Is Unnecessary: Conventional solutions for effective, safe, and economical Military voting are available and proven. The state with the best results for overseas voting, Minnesota, does not use online voting. Let’s emulate their example.

Among others, we were joined in opposition testimony by Verified Voting:

OPPOSITION TO BILL NO. 647 – Understanding that email and fax voting are forms of internet voting – in fact they are the least secure forms. We dishonor our military by providing them insecure means to vote.
Chairs Leone and Hennessy and Members of the Committee, Verified Voting works tirelessly around the country and in Washington D.C. to support expanded opportunities for our military personnel to vote.However we oppose Bill No. 647 because it would dishonor our military personnel with an insecure means to vote. Email and fax voting are internet voting and are not secure. Those serving to secure our democracy should not be provided an unequally insecure means to participate in that democracy. That is what 647 would do.

Verified Voting was a strong supporter of the federal MOVE Act, passed in October 2009. The MOVE Act continued to show excellent gains in voter enfranchisement amongst military personnel in the 2012 General Election. We are members of the Alliance for Military and Overseas Voting Rights (AMOVR), where we join many military personnel support colleagues to work on their behalf year round.
We take support for military voting seriously and oppose 647 on strict empirical grounds of insecurity.
We strongly recommend against allowing ballots to be cast over the internet, via email, internet?based fax, or through internet portals. Online voting presents a direct threat to the integrity of elections in Connecticut, because it is not sufficiently secure against fraud or malfunction. Cyber security experts with the Department of Homeland Security have publicly warned against internet voting…

Allowing ballots to be cast by email, internet?based fax, or through internet portals ? at least with the current security tools ? is an invitation to partisan operatives and nation?states to tamper with the integrity of our elections. The problem is particularly pernicious because it is unlikely that such attacks will be detected. Attacks on consumer and business bank accounts can be detected because the accounting systems are reviewed by multiple parties and auditable records exist. Bank statements, unlike our voted ballots, are not anonymous. This makes it critical that the physical ballot which the voter inspected is returned for counting. If a purely electronic form is transmitted, that unsecured vote is not verifiable by the voter and does not constitute an auditable record of the vote.

Also see CTNewsJunkie coverage of Sen Slossberg and Rep Morin’s press conference, surrounded by veterans and the Rhode Island Secretary of State. The article includes some of our testimony and a veteran apparently unaware of the free express mail return of voted ballots <read>

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