Internet Voting Systems
The State of Michigan has had about 46,000 votes, or 28% of the total
votes cast in its caucuses, cast over the Internet. The Democratic
party is happy with the results. The Department of Defense, however,
is not so confident of the technology.
The Secure Electronic Registration and Voting Experiment (SERVE) cost
US taxpayers $22 million, and was designed to let 100,000 overseas
troops to vote via the Internet. It was squashed, however, after a
report was released outlining critical problems with the system. The
system, "has numerous other fundamental security problems that leave
it vulnerable to a variety of well-known cyber attacks, any one of
which could be catastrophic," according to the report.
Accenture, the main contractor
on the project, said that the researchers drew unwarranted conclusions
about the project. They have signed up seven States to participate in
the program during the 2004 election campaign: Arkansas, Florida,
Hawaii, North Carolina, South Carolina, Utah and Washington.
The Risks of Electronic Voting
There are numerous types of electronic voting systems already in use
in the US, ranging from punched cards in Florida through completely
electronic systems, such as the SERVE system. Most of the problems
lie with the completely electronic systems.
Marked card systems, such as the punched card or lever-pull systems
and the pen-marked systems, are accepted by many experts as the safest
to use. These systems not only tally counts electronically, but can
be manually audited when there is a problem or question. Having a
paper trail is an absolute requirement if people are going to have
faith in the results of the election.
Totally Electronic Voting Systems
Totally electronic voting systems are based upon standard computer
technology. These devices often are personal computers with special
programs and hardware designed to help collect and tabulate votes.
And hence the problem.
Basing electronic voting systems on a general computing platform opens
the systems up to numerous well-known vulnerabilities and attacks.
Many of the voting systems are based upon Microsoft Windows with networking
enabled -- a vulnerable combination.
Add the Internet to the already vulnerable mix, and things start to
get worse. The Internet servers collecting the votes are subject to
attack, as are the browsers being used by the voters and the networks
used to connect the two together. Can you be truly sure that the
votes were properly tabulated?
Not only do you have to properly tabulate the votes, but
you have to properly authenticate the voters. Trying to determine who
is actually voting, and their number of votes, has proven to be
It will be years before a secure, properly auditable, Internet
electronic voting system will be brought online, but it will happen.