CNNMoney - Online Voting is Taking Off

On Election Day 2012, Everyone Counts' discusses the adoption of online voting in the United States with CNN Money 


Online voting companies like Everyone Counts, whose system is shown here, face a slew of obstacles in the U.S. - even as other countries take the digital plunge.

Online voting companies like Everyone Counts, whose system is shown here, face a slew of obstacles in the U.S. - even as other countries take the digital plunge.

WHY YOU CAN'T VOTE ONLINE YET

November 6, 2012

By Julianne Pepitone @CNNMoney

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Online voting is taking off in local elections, particularly overseas. But Americans shouldn't expect to vote for the president on their laptop or iPad anytime soon.

The battle over whether to digitize the voting process has become a full-blown war in the United States, even as countries like Canada, Norway and Australia have increasingly adopted online systems. Proponents say going digital will boost voter turnout, while naysayers cite hacking and other security threats as risks too great to overcome in the near future.

"It's such a different world than it was 20 years ago, and yet very little has changed in our voting process," says Rob Weber, a former IT professional at IBM (IBM, Fortune 500), who started the blog Cyber the Vote in 2010.

Like many supporters of online voting, Weber points out that many young Americans don't vote. Bringing the voting process to a format they're familiar with -- a website on a PC, tablet, or even a mobile phone -- would overcome the "enthusiasm gap," he believes.

But that argument hasn't been enough to bring online voting into the mainstream. For that, Weber places the blame squarely on election officials whom he says aren't interested in changing the status quo.

"They find online voting culturally distasteful," Weber says. "They bring up theoretical hacking situations in order to make people afraid of the concept of change. And unfortunately it works."

Security researchers don't think those concerns are merely theoretical. Michael Coates, chair of the Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) and director of security assurance at Firefox maker Mozilla, says hackers will attack anything worth hacking.

Home PCs, in particular, are susceptible to a myriad of cyberattacks that could be used to alter a user's vote.

"Until we can reliably foil malware and viruses -- and who knows when that will be -- it's hard to consider a system in which we vote from our home computers," Coates says.

Scytl's Spanish parent company has conducted online voting in over 30 countries worldwide. In the U.S., it's slowly gaining steam. The company has completed online "ballot delivery" -- digitally delivering a paper-ballot-like form that voters can fill out and submit -- in six U.S. states. Those digital ballots are typically used by military members and overseas residents. It has also run direct online voting for local elections in West Virginia, Florida and Alaska. 

"I don't think we'll be voting online by [2016's general election], but my hope is that we'll continue to take slow and measured steps toward that eventuality," she adds.

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