Why You Cannot Vote Online Today


"That was an example of how who builds the systems you are going to use for elections is more important than the format it was built on," Lori Steele, CEO of Everyone Counts, told ABC News. "The hack University of Michigan deployed illustrated Security 101 mistakes. Any state-of-the-art systems would not have been hacked in that way. People are holding that up as the reason Internet voting shouldn't be happen, but that was a mediocre deployment."

New Systems

Steele runs Everyone Counts a company that is working on next-generation online voting systems based on software that runs on computers, iPads, and other devices.

When Steele explains how the system works it sounds very simple. "A voter receives the ballot and marks it and sends it back via the Internet." But, of course, there is a lot of security in there that helps get that vote back securely.

"Our ballots are each encrypted with military-grade encryption, we audit data every step of the way, there is not another system out there that has that level of security," Steele says. "You put together the administrative processes and the state-of-the-art technology and you have a system that is far more secure than going down the street, putting a ballot in a box, and then having it driven cross-town."

Everyone Counts' systems have been used in national and state elections in the U.K., but also in some elections in the U.S., in West Virginia and Honolulu. In West Virginia, it was used in 2010 as an absentee ballot option for overseas citizens. In Honolulu in 2009, it was used for a neighborhood board election.

But some of the experts don't necessarily agree with Steele. "Right now there are companies trying to sell Internet voting systems and secure voting systems, and we have to have pretty good evidence that the voting isn't as secure. If a company wants to sell it, they should persuade the experts," Dill said.

Steele argues, however, that online voting has not been adopted this election season by and large because of money spent on the new voting machines.

"What we will find in the next 2 to 4 years is that those machines have reached their life expectancies. They are constantly talking about what we can do now, they look to us," she said.

Email is Not The Answer

But the online voting skeptics and Steele agree on one thing: email voting is not the answer.

"Email voting is a terrible idea. I could send you an email from Donald Duck and it would look like it was from him," Rubin said.

"Emailing ballots in the case of New Jersey is the best they can do in a hard situation, but in general it is a very bad idea. It isn't secure, it's not auditable," Steele said.

Still, whatever its shortcomings, it is a step to getting people more familiar with the idea of voting via the Internet.

"For the future of Internet voting, then, as FDR has said, the only thing we have to fear is fear itself," Kelleher said.

Whether that fear of the security issues is justified or not depends on who you talk to, but in short it's why we are not casting ballots today on our computers, phones, or iPads.

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