September 8, 2012

E-Voting: Too Risky for America

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Political campaigns are typically long, intense and exhausting battles for the support of constituents. However, it seems that President Obama and Governor Romney may have more to worry about then simply recruiting voters in the upcoming election. Thanks to the increasingly prevalent electronic-voting system, it is unclear if the votes of their supporters will be accurately recorded.

Electronic voting brings about myriad new security concerns that may outweigh the benefits of this new technology. Many political activists and scholars warn that e-voting is far from foolproof. Professor Alexander Shvartsman, at University of Connecticut’s Center for Voting Technology Research, has argued, “There is no replacement for having a ballot that is verified by the voter.”

The Verified Voting Foundation announced that approximately 25% of all votes in the November election will be cast using an electronic voting system. In fact, 32 states will even allow votes to be submitted via email or fax. Initially, the e-vote system seems more efficient, increases overall voter turnout and eliminates the possibility of ballot stuffing. However, a report entitled “Counting Votes 2012,” published by the Verified Voting Foundation, cautions that “in every national election in the past decade, computerized voting systems have failed – machines haven’t started, machines have failed in the middle of voting, memory cards couldn’t be read be read, votes were mistallied or lost.”

Furthermore, a collaborative study between Johns Hopkins and the University of Maryland in 2004 examined the voting technology and concluded that ballot machines are often “far below even the most minimal security standards applicable in other contexts.” A paper by the Electronic Journal of E-government argues that software designers could easily insert untraceable code into voting systems. This could significantly alter the votes cast for a specific political party (in some estimates by margin of 10 percent).

There is no paper trail involved, so voters cannot be sure, or prove, that their ballot was cast accurately. An AT&T study sites the potential use of a “malicious payload” computer virus to tamper with voting results. This software is able to “change the voter’s vote without the voter or anyone else noticing, regardless of the kind of encryption or voter authentication in place.” Afterwards, the virus is able to erase itself, leaving no evidence of foul play.The most notable instance of electronic vote interference involves a University of Michigan professor and his students in 2010.

The class was able to successfully infiltrate a sample electronic voting system, alter votes as they pleased and eventually made the voting machines play the university fight song, according to Discovery Channel News.

Professor Alex Haldeman told reporters, “It was extremely easy. Within the first three hours or so of looking at the code we found the first open door and within 36 hours we had taken control of the system.” What’s worse, Haldeman told reporters that he discovered similar attempts to invade the voting system by hackers “from Iran and China.” Not what you want, when these votes can determine the future of the most powerful country in the world.

Original Author: Monica Sharma