A long time ago, many USENET newsgroup posters predicted a time where online voting would become commonplace and for the first time ever, this year’s Oscar winners were selected online.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences decided to let its members vote online, but cybersecurity and elections experts state on USENET that casting Internet ballots in public elections is still a long way off.
Even picking Best Picture winners led to serious snafus. The voting deadline for the Oscars was extended in early January after some members had issues with account registration (password requests were answered by snail mail rather than email).
But in public elections, deadlines can’t be extended. A group of cybersecurity and elections experts last week reiterated the dangers of modeling public elections after private ones. Companies who design online voting systems for award shows or corporate shareholder meetings may suggest these systems can also be used in congressional or presidential races. .
There are major differences between private and public elections: the degree of security required, the degree of privacy required, the degree of transparency required. In a public election we’re talking about a national security situation.
The idea of an Internet voting system is floated in every election cycle, and for good reason. US Online voting would boost voter turnout, and increased citizen engagement is probably a good thing. Plus, we do everything else online—why not vote there?
Three core challenges prevent online voting from becoming a reality: client-side attacks, server-side attacks, and denial of service attacks. Malware, viruses, and hackers can make your personal life miserable, but they can also change the outcome of an election. If The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Postare are vulnerable to attack, county election departments without significant IT budgets don’t stand a chance.
But the idea has some appeal. Six states this year have proposed online voting legislation and many states now allow online voter registration and offer candidate information and printable ballots.
But until new technology is developed, National Internet voting just isn’t safe enough.
So in the end, the world is still not ready for online voting, but you can still chime in for your favorite – whether it be the Oscar Nominee, your local Senator or the next POTUS – on one of the thousands of USENET Newsgroups Thundernews offers its members.