Why Internet voting is a terrible idea, explained in small words anyone can understand

In this 20 minute video, Princeton computer science prof Andrew Appel lays out the problems with Internet-based voting in crisp, nontechnical language that anyone can understand.

Appel is a hero of fair elections: from buying "secure" voting machines on Ebay for $82, then writing extensively about their terrible flaws, to outing New Jersey for its voting irregularities coverup, Appel has been on the front lines of the electronic voting wars for years and years.

(via Dan Hon)

Notable Replies

  1. but by cross-referencing your voting history with porn searches we can sell you better insurance policies!

  2. And the winner is... Votie McVoteface.

  3. I'm not an expert, so don't take this as an exhaustive defense of vote-by-mail, but there are more than a few safeguards built in. Obviously there's nothing stopping me from hijacking a mail truck on Ballot Delivery Day (well, there's not one single day for that, but there are days where the truck will have more ballots). But that's not the same as getting away with it. In order to fraudulently vote by mail, you have to be willing and able to do all of the following things:

    • steal a ballot without being detected
    • hope that the intended recipient doesn't notice and/or doesn't care that they received no ballot
    • commit a felony (no joke, when you think about it, which a ballot fraudster would have opportunity to do)
    • adequately forge the recipient's personal information in a way that tallies with the state's records and leaves no tracks to you, and
    • in some places, intercept the receipt mailed to voters.

    At the end of all that, which is by no means impossible but also not necessarily easy, you've netted one extra vote. Which means that even in a very small, very closely contested local election, you're risking an awful lot for a vanishingly small chance of influencing the outcome.

    The only way it really makes sense (not that crimes are always undertaken by sensible people) is if you can steal a LOT of ballots, all at once. E.g., if you are in charge of the mail at a nursing home--and this has happened. But even then you're leaving giant, incriminating tracks in the metadata and physical evidence. If the "active seniors" floors of Shadyside Acres vote at 55% turnout, but the "critical care" floors are turning out at 90%, and they're all voting for the same candidate, and the ballots all seem to be marked with the same pen and in similar hands, and if one or more of those voters turns out to be in coma, etc. etc., the dragnet is going to catch you pretty quick. And you'll still only have netted, what, fifty votes? Carrying it even further, a lot of states require mailed votes to be witnessed by another voter, who signs the ballot envelope and provides his or her information. That's another loose end that can direct attention to your scheme. And so forth.

    You're right that it's functionally impossible to construct a system in which everyone eligible can vote but nobody can vote in anyone else's place. But it turns out it's incredibly easy to construct a system in which it is so silly to try that virtually nobody does, and virtually none of those people get away with it, and (so far as we know) nobody ever actually profits by it.

  4. Ambiguous: cursor mark on "YES," red "X" on "NO." Voter intent unclear.

    BALLOT REJECTED

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