Recently the Huffington Post published an article about Hawaii’s recent Internet and phone-based elections (“America’s Newest State Holds America’s Newest Election“). The article presents an optimistic and patriotic view of the Everyone Counts (E1C) election system that allows voters to cast their ballots from their home computers or over the phone. It was written by E1C executive Aaron Contorer and is effectively a marketing piece for E1C that exaggerates the scope of the election, overlooks or insults other election methods, and glosses over the formidable technical challenges and dangers posed by the electronic submission of voted ballots.
The election in Honolulu was for neighborhood board members, and thus was not covered by Hawaii’s public election laws. That matters because Hawaii’s election laws, fortunately, require a voter-verified paper ballot and a post-election hand audit of a percentage of these ballots. Since such verification and audits are impossible with a purely Internet-based voting system, there is no legal way to use the E1C system under current Hawaii state law. Nevertheless, because this small election is being used to promote Internet voting generally, and because Internet voting schemes are being proposed across the United States, the issue demands thorough discussion. In response to multiple efforts to allow voting over the Internet in major elections, many of our nation’s prominent technology experts have signed a statement cautioning against adopting Internet-based voting systems without first understanding and guarding against the numerous and well-documented dangers. This is not because, as Mr. Contorer suggests, those opposing Internet voting find “[t]he introduction of technology to any process … scary”. The signatories to this statement are not at all intimidated by technology; in fact many are established experts in voting systems who are most certainly aware of the major risks associated with Internet voting.