In their editorial Modern times, ancient system, the Winnipeg Free Press recommends internet voting as a means of increasing voter turnout. Senior city hall elections official Marc Lemoine has also expressed an interest in online voting. As a computer engineer who teaches web programming courses I would urge them to reconsider.
Internet voting would be much less secure than our current system and would mean the loss of a physical record of votes for auditing purposes. We would also lose the ability to verify that each vote was cast by a unique voter. For example, a parent might be tempted to ask their 18-year-old children if they could vote on their behalf, or vice versa.
Recently, election officials in Washington D.C. invited security experts to test an internet voting system designed for overseas voters. Within 36 hours a team of computer scientists from the University of Michigan had compromised the system, allowing them to read and change recorded votes. One member of the team, J. Alex Halderman, had this to say:
“Major web sites like Facebook and Twitter regularly suffer from vulnerabilities. These high-profile sites have greater resources and far more security experience than the municipalities that run elections. It may someday be possible to build a secure method for voting over the Internet, but in the meantime, such systems should be presumed to be vulnerable based on the limitations of today’s security technology.”
Implementing internet voting in Winnipeg would require a change in provincial legislation.
- Hacking the D.C. Internet Voting Pilot - J. Alex Halderman
- A Comparative Assessment of Electronic Voting [pdf] prepared for Elections Canada by the CETD.
- Casting a Vote Against Internet Voting - Michael Geist
Electronic voting machines are equally troubling: