online ballot marking

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Verified Voting Blog: Statement on Maryland HB706/SB919 Online Delivery and Marking of Absentee Ballots

To download the PDF click here.

Verified Voting supports Maryland House Bill 706 (Senate Bill 919) as an immediate, short-term mitigation to reduce risks inherent in Maryland’s current online absentee ballot system by limiting its use to only those who would otherwise be unable to vote. Going forward, substantial changes are necessary to provide Maryland’s voters with secure, reliable, accessible means of voting absentee.

Verified Voting supports the objective of helping voters to obtain their ballots and cast their votes, but any technology used for this purpose must be carefully evaluated. Regrettably, computer scientists and others have found that Maryland’s system has several grave shortcomings.

Because Maryland does not check signatures on returned absentee ballots, there is no way to distinguish legitimate from illegitimate ballots. Using information that is widely available, an attacker could readily request, electronically receive (at multiple fake email addresses), and cast any number of absentee ballots.1 Even if the attacker did not cast the ballots, any voters purported to have requested absentee ballots would be required to cast provisional ballots, creating chaos and suspicion and increasing the likelihood that the voter will be disenfranchised. Read More

Maryland: In Wake of Russian Meddling, Critics Say Maryland’s Online Ballot System Is Potential Target – NBC4

Requests for absentee ballots are on the rise ahead of the November election — the first general contest since learning of Russian efforts to access voting systems, including those right here in the Washington area. But critics, including a host of computer security experts, say a system designed to make voting easier also makes it more of a target for hackers intending to interfere in U.S. elections. Maryland officials, however, argue those concerns are hypothetical and say they’ve put the necessary safeguards in place. At issue is Maryland’s online ballot delivery system, which allows any voter to request and download an absentee ballot from the internet. Maryland doesn’t allow residents to vote online, so users of this system must mail in their ballots.’  Read More

Maryland: Here’s why cybersecurity experts say Maryland’s ballot delivery system is a target for hackers | The Washington Post

Cybersecurity experts are asking lawmakers to bring Maryland’s ballot access laws — which they say prioritize accessibility to an extent that makes the voting system vulnerable to hacking — in line with other states ahead of November’s elections. Information revealed last month by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III about Russian interference in the political process highlights the need for states to examine the security of voting systems, advocates and computer scientists warn. But legislators say they must balance those concerns with ensuring ballots can be easily obtained by all eligible Marylanders who want to vote. “There is a tension there,” said state Sen. Cheryl C. Kagan (D-Montgomery). “With all the news of election tampering in 2016, it’s critically important that voters have confidence in the security and accuracy of our elections . . . . We are also a fairly progressive state that wants to make it reasonably easy for people to vote.” Read More

Maryland: Security Experts Question Maryland’s Online Ballot System | Associated Press

A new online ballot system and marking tool could weaken Maryland’s voting security and make it the most vulnerable state in the nation, according to some cybersecurity experts. On Sept. 14, the Maryland State Board of Elections voted 4-1 to certify a new voting system and marking tool for online ballots. The new system will allow all Maryland voters the ability to both make selections on a computer and print absentee ballots from home, and send them into the State Board of Elections. Nikki Charlson, the deputy state administrator of the Board of Elections, said the system and tool are as secure as possible. “We are following all of the best practices for IT systems,” she said. Experts in cybersecurity and computer science have publicly stated they believe the potential risks with the new method of voting outweigh the benefits. Read More

National: Starting from principles: remote ballot marking systems | Center for Civic Design

Remote ballot marking systems are one of the new uses of technology in election administration. As part of a vote-by-mail system, they allow voters to receive a blank ballot to mark electronically, print, and then cast by returning the printed ballot to the elections office. In a recent project, NIST, the Center for Civic Design, Verified Voting Foundation and experts in security, accessibility, usability, and election administration set out to answer the question: Can we make remote ballot marking systems both accessible and secure, so voters can use and trust them? We were pleased to discover that these goals can co-exist in a well-designed system, and in many cases they support each other. Following the lead of state election directors, we started with strong principles and supporting guidelines for remote ballot marking systems focusing on the important goals for any election system. Read More