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GCN : April 2015
With the presidential election coming up in 2016, many constituencies are looking to how they can use technol- ogy to streamline the voting process. However, the security of voting sys- tems – both with and without technol- ogy – remains a question. One method gaining support is to secure the voting process by moving to open-source software. The Trust- TheVote Project wants open-source technology used from the top down, in voter registration, voter information services, ballot design, the foundations of ballot tabulation, election results reporting and analysis and elements of auditing. The initiative is the flagship project of the Open Source Election Technol- ogy Foundation (OSET), which wants to have a demonstrable impact on the 2016 elections. “Our nation’s elections systems and technology are woefully antiquated. They are officially obsolete,” Greg Miller, chair of OSET, told the Huffing- ton Post. Three companies — Election System and Software (ES&S), Dominion Voting Systems and Hart InterCivic — domi- nate the voting machine market and have little incentive to update their sys- tems, reported Babe. Further, election data standards are at least a decade old. The result is that election adminis- trators are buying outdated machines. Moving to an open-source format would encourage tech-savvy groups and individuals to verify the integrity of the voting system, assure accountabili- ty and get more voters to the polls. The idea is that the more widely available open software is, the more scrutiny it will receive, the more flaws will be surfaced and the stronger the code will be. “Make that machine a glass box instead of a black box,” said Miller. But open-source code isn’t always regularly reviewed nor is its security verified. Such assumptions can lead to vulnerabilities, like the Heartbleed bug. In lieu of actual voting technol- ogy, a popular tool being adopted by jurisdictions around the country is the electronic polling book. E-poll books allow election officials to review and process voter information but not actu- ally record or count votes. Currently 30 jurisdictions use e-poll books, accord- ing to the National Conference of State Legislators. E-poll books come in either laptop or tablet form and go beyond the capabil- ities of paper poll books, which contain a list of eligible voters in the district or precinct. Some additional functions include the ability to redirect voters to the correct polling location and scan a driver’s license to pull up a voter’s information. The technology seems to be gaining momentum as it gets adopted differ- ently across jurisdictions. Recently, Microsoft also announced that Elec- tion System and Software chose a Windows tablet (the 10-inch Toshiba Encore 2) for its newest poll books - the ExpressPoll Pollbook Tablet. • Voting technology: Is it secure yet? BY KATHLEEN HICKEY GCN APRIL 2015 • GCN.COM 13 MANHATTANDA.ORG While online applications may add conveniences to the voting process, critics aren’t convinced that security and privacy risks associated with Internet voting will be resolved anytime soon. David Jefferson, com- puter scientist in Law- rence Livermore National Laboratory ’s Center for Applied Scientific Com- puting, has studied elec- tronic voting and security for more than 15 years. He believes “security, privacy, reliability, availability and authentication require- ments for Internet voting are very different from, and far more demanding than, those required for e-commerce.” In short, voting is more susceptible to attacks, manipulation and vulner- abilities, he said. Even so, some champions of Internet balloting believe the safeguards that protect online shoppers from hack- ers can also protect the sensitive information and meet the legal regulations associated with voting on- line. Advocates also believe that Internet voting will increase turnout, cut costs and improve accuracy. Jefferson refutes these claims by asserting that there currently is no strong authentication or verifica- tion solution for online shopping. Also, while proxy shopping is a common oc- currence and is not against the law, proxy voting is not allowed. “Internet elections are essentially impos- sible to audit, and there’s no meaningful way to recount because there are no original indelible re- cords of the voters’ intent against which to compare the outcome,” Jefferson he said. “The only vote records are on the server, and they are highly pro- cessed electronic ballot images that have been operated on by millions of lines of code on the cli- ent device, during transit through the Internet and on the server and canvass systems.” — Mark Pomerleau Security expert: Online voting not ready for prime time “Internet elections are essentially impossible to audit.” – DAVI D JEFFERSON 0415gcn_006-013.indd 13 3/30/15 3:10 PM