Why You Can't Vote Online Yet

Friday, November 09, 2012

Transcript

Election Day saw long lines at the polls and confusion among voters. Why can't we just log on and vote? Brooke speaks to Thad Hall, co-author of Point, Click and Vote: The Future of Internet Voting about why, despite being used in countries like Estonia, online voting won't be a reality in the U.S. anytime soon.

Will Samson - My Broken Mirror

Guests:

Thad Hall

Hosted by:

Brooke Gladstone

Comments [18]

William from Florida

Is voting by Personal Computers another way of keeping the elderly and poor people from casting a vote? How many folks on Welfare or existing on Social Security can afford to purchase a computer spend money to be on-line? Most are just trying to survive. Like all of us they do cherish their right to vote!

Nov. 19 2012 07:49 AM
Andrew Raybould

I will not repeat the many valid points made here, but another one to consider is the dismal history of electronic voting. Every major system employed in the USA was found to have serious functional and security problems after deployment, and as a result the current election cycle has seen a retrenchment from electronic voting, with some states abandoning their electronic systems and reverting to earlier methods (with the wasted expenditure being borne by the taxpayers, of course.)

You might hope that, in matters where security is paramount, everyone involved would make every effort to get it right, but in this and many other cases, we see that things just don't work that way. The Dunning-Kruger effect is particularly harsh in security matters, where developers who do not have a deep understanding of it fail to imagine how their work could be compromised, and are consequently over-optimistic.

Before you tackle this issue again, there are at least two experts you should consult: Rebecca Mercuri of the University of Pennsylvania, and Avi Rubin of Johns Hopkins.

Nov. 13 2012 09:18 AM
Mike LaBonte from Haverhill, MA

Hall completely bypassed the #1 reason we should never have Internet voting: vote buying. So far there is no system better than the Australian ballot - paper ballots marked in secret, anonymous once mixed with all the other ballots.

Nov. 12 2012 11:08 PM
Susan C. Strong from San Francisco East Bay

I completely agree with the comment below, written by my friend, Judy Bertelsen. Internet voting would destroy our democracy, and I am very, very suspicious of the motives of anyone who suggested it!

Susan

How can anyone seriously consider advocating voting on the internet? Don't all the examples of successful hacking show us that our votes almost certainly would be hacked and changed? Huge numbers of people would be motivated to do so: those in the opposing party, hackers who just have fun messing things up because they can, as well as foreign governments who might want to determine the results of our elections.

If all you want is a near-effortless illusion that you've voted but you don't give a fig whether or not your vote is counted as cast, then internet voting is the way to go. But if you want your vote and the votes of others to be accurately recorded and counted, we must stay far away from this very bad idea.

Not for me, if I have a choice. I hope not for this country.

If Google and others that have tons of money invested in internet security cannot prevent hacking, why think that elections, which have a history of poor security and poor planning in many jurisdictions, would be secure?

This is a foolish and naive idea.

Nov. 12 2012 04:02 PM
Paul Stokes from 87048

Thad Hall seems to subscribe to the aphorism, "Where there's a will, there's a way."

Maybe so, but until someone finds a solution to the vulnerabilities to hackers, Internet voting is untenable. As has been said, bankers and commercial enterprises lose billions, but they can tolerate that because the profits exceed the losses. When bankers and commercial enterprises figure out how to eliminate those losses, then maybe we can use their solutions for Internet voting.

Nov. 12 2012 03:30 PM
Miss N. Democracy from Berkeley

Internet voting is a bad idea because votes would surely be hacked. DeMOCKracy!

Nov. 12 2012 12:31 PM
Mitch Trachtenberg

When you mark a paper ballot and deposit it into a ballot box that is guarded until it is counted, you can have a reasonable expectation that your ballot will be counted and will be available for recount.

When you connect your smartphone or computer to a site that says it is a bank, you are relying on many things that it, perhaps, makes sense to rely on if you know for a fact that you will quickly find out if your transaction is not handled properly (that is, you'll know soon enough if your $10,000 deposit didn't get credited.) You are relying on the fact that your phone is not infected with a virus, that the bank's computer is not infected, that there is nobody redirecting your message along one of the many "hops" it takes in getting from you to the bank, that the bankers will not receive your message and ignore it... the list goes on and on.

When you connect your smartphone or computer to an elections office, you cannot and must not receive any receipt indicating how your vote was recorded. Even if you did, that would not be proof that your vote was properly recorded -- I could give you a receipt today that told you that vote #123456 was for candidate A, then show you in response to your inquiry a sheet that says #123456 went to A, but secretly count your vote as for candidate B. Smart people claim to be able to generate receipts that are self-confirming, but how many of us will understand that technology sufficiently to feel justifiable confidence that our vote was properly recorded?

In paper ballots, we have a technology that works. It's not whiz-bang and it's not as convenient as voting in your pajamas, but it allows us to count the votes in a way everyone understands and, used properly, it allows independent parties to recount the votes if anyone does not trust the initial results.

Nov. 12 2012 11:12 AM
Arthur

See also http://cacm.acm.org/magazines/2012/10/155536-internet-voting-in-the-us/fulltext

Internet Voting in the U.S.
By Barbara Simons, Douglas W. Jones
Communications of the ACM, Vol. 55 No. 10, Pages 68-77
10.1145/2347736.2347754

It starts with:

The assertion that Internet voting is the wave of the future has become commonplace. We frequently are asked, "If I can bank online, why can't I vote online?" The question assumes that online banking is safe and secure. However, banks routinely and quietly replenish funds lost to online fraud in order to maintain public confidence."

Nov. 12 2012 06:00 AM
Jbert

How can anyone seriously consider advocating voting on the internet? Don't all the examples of successful hacking show us that our votes almost certainly would be hacked and changed? Huge numbers of people would be motivated to do so: those in the opposing party, hackers who just have fun messing things up because they can, as well as foreign governments who might want to determine the results of our elections.

If all you want is a near-effortless illusion that you've voted but you don't give a fig whether or not your vote is counted as cast, then internet voting is the way to go. But if you want your vote and the votes of others to be accurately recorded and counted, we must stay far away from this very bad idea.

Not for me, if I have a choice. I hope not for this country.

If Google and others that have tons of money invested in internet security cannot prevent hacking, why think that elections, which have a history of poor security and poor planning in many jurisdictions, would be secure?

This is a foolish and naive idea.

Nov. 12 2012 05:14 AM
Arthur

You usually tell both sides of the story. In this case, you interviewed Thad Hall, a well-known proponent of voting by the Internet. You should interview Doug Jones and Barbara Simons, the authors of "Broken Ballots: Will Your Vote Count?," for the technological risks.

Nov. 12 2012 03:09 AM
Collin from California.

I agree with both Susannah and Philip. The interviewee completely ignores most of the real risks with online voting and has cherry-picked one example to back his pitch. He completely ignores the Washington D.C. Pilot project that was hacked within hours. The Hawaii election that saw a 300% drop in turnout, and Canadian party elections that have been subjected to DDOS attacks.

Susannah is right, voting booths, and the inconvenience provide real security and guard against real problems.

Nov. 12 2012 12:21 AM
PatF from Tacoma

Just want to second the comments by "jennifer from Seattle, WA" and "Robb S. from Seattle". In Washington State, our ballots arrive 3 weeks before Election Day. That gives us plenty of time to find a quiet space and time to mark our ballots. There are 3 voters in my family, 2 of whom used to vote in those antique states east of the Rockies. All of us deposited our completed ballots in different county drop boxes -- near work, near school, near home -- after marking them at our leisure, aided by the voter pamphlet and our individual computers on different evenings.

One of us is in deep mourning for the absence of poll voting. He prefers the community feeling of standing on line to curling up with the ballot and online crib-sheets. So i'll put in a second for Jennifer's thought: "A mix of absentee ballots and poll voting would be great."

Nov. 11 2012 10:02 PM

An objection in certain circles to being able to vote by internet is that it's too easy, and those circles have done everything they can to make it difficult to vote.

Nov. 11 2012 03:50 PM
Robb S. from Seattle

Hear, Hear Jennifer from Seattle! I too live in Seattle, a transplant from Wisconsin 6 years ago. Voting in Washington is quite simply amazing and I don't understand why more states don't do it this way. It allows for the voter to be truly informed of ALL of the issues on the ballot. I just want to add that prior to receiving the ballots, we also receive a detailed voter pamphlet describing the candidates & ballot measures in detail. It also allows the candidates and citizens for/against ballot measures to make statements for themselves as well as rebut the statements made by the other side thus allowing a balanced description and brief discussion of the issues. Voting is something that I actually enjoy now - sitting on my couch with a cup of coffee, mulling over my votes, knowing that I have all the time in the world to research my decision a little bit more if I feel the need. The internet, if nothing else, is a wonderful place for that.

Nov. 11 2012 03:45 PM
Susannah

to say it more simply....
Voting in a booth in a public place allows us to vote away from prying eyes of spouses, bosses, and anyone who would apply money or other pressures on us. Removing privacy from the balloting process is dangerous.

Nov. 11 2012 11:19 AM
Susannah from Brooklyn

While there is much appealing about internet and mail-in ballots, our eagerness for convenience seems to be leading many to overlook the sacrifice of privacy. If we want a democratic system that elects candidates that reflect citizens' preferences we need to protect the privacy of the vote to ensure that voters will feel free to express those personal preferences. During training for phone-calling for Obama, we were told that if we were calling to check whether a woman had voted for Obama we were not to record a response unless we talked to her. In particular, we were not to take the word of a husband about who his wife voted for, because the campaign believed (presumably based on research) that wives were often voting for Obama and telling husbands they were voting Romney. Can citizens be free to vote their personal preference if those willing to pay or intimidate for votes can see how others are voting?

Nov. 11 2012 11:06 AM
jennifer from Seattle, WA

I voted in my pajamas! During mid October!

I live in Washington State, the entire state votes by mail. The day I voted I was actually too sick to go to work. I stayed home, watched TV shows, did my voting research, filled out my ballot, and also got a few loads of laundry done. After mailing it in I was able to check online to see if my ballot arrived okay and if my signature was accepted (it was). If it wasn't okay I had plenty of time to contact elections officials about it.

Washington State has no polls, but there are drop boxes if you don't want to use USPS. And they're also made available so you can't call the stamp on your ballot a "poll tax".

A mix of absentee ballots and poll voting would be great.

Nov. 10 2012 02:14 PM
Philip

There are two other problems with voting over the Internet:
1) It allows a voter to prove he is voting for a particular candidate, opening up the possibility of selling one's vote.
2) It is subject to security weaknesses on voter's home computers.
(Of course, Problem 2 is also a problem with commercial voting machines. Because they use proprietary software, the public cannot be assured that they are safe from attack.)

Nov. 10 2012 01:47 PM

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