Report: State Laws Put Secret Ballot at Risk for Internet Voters

The rise of internet voting undermines the secret ballot, particularly for states that fail to warn voters that their confidentiality is at risk, according a report a report co-authored by three advocacy groups.

Researchers from the Electronic Privacy Information Center, the Verified Voting Foundation and the Common Cause Education Fund said no technology exists than can guarantee the secrecy of any marked ballot transmitted over the internet.

“As states permit the marking and transmitting of marked ballots over the Internet, the right to a secret ballot is eroded and the integrity of our elections is put at risk,” the authors wrote.

The report comes amid increased concerns about the potential for cyber intrusions during the voting process. Earlier this week the Department of Homeland Security offered its assistance to states to defend against potential cyberattacks during elections.

Thirty-two states and the District of Columbia allow voting through email, fax and internet portals, with all but four requiring voters to sign a waiver forgoing their right to a secret ballot, according to today’s report. Most of those states have constitutional provisions guaranteeing secrecy in voting, the researchers said.

The authors also took Idaho, Mississippi, North Dakota and Washington to task, saying they fail to warn voters they are participating in a “second-class system” of voting, and that the integrity of their secret ballot is at risk. They also singled out Montana for its statutory requirement that internet votes “remain secret,” pointing out that such a provision is “technologically impossible” to enforce.

The researchers recommended that internet voters, who are mostly overseas or in the military, take steps to ensure that they keep their marked ballots off of networks where they could be compromised. They suggested voters take steps to receive their ballots early and ask for a blank ballot electronically before filling it out and mailing back the marked copy.