Recall how many times you’ve heard of a company’s customer database being hacked.
Or a medical records system.
Or a social-media company’s private data vault.
Now, imagine if it’s discovered that hacking had taken place in an election run only by digital voting.
Who really won? And how would you know?
Already, there have been warnings of potential security breaches in the wake of approval of a plan for residents of 24 counties in West Virginia to vote on their smartphones.
Now, the Los Angeles Times reports some Silicon Valley investors are pressing for widespread voting by phone.
Security experts are warning it could be “downright dangerous for democracy.”
“There are so many things that could go wrong,” said Marian Schneider, the president of Verified Voting. “It is an odd time for this to be gaining momentum.”
One supporter of the idea, who “grew rich helping Uber,” sees mobile voting as “a potential cure for an ailing democracy,” the Times said.
It’s Bradley Tusk, who is betting that “the gospel of mobile voting will spread so fast that most Americans will have the option of casting their ballots for president by phone as soon as 2028.”
Denver also is considering elections by phone.
Tusk argues the percent of voters taking part in elections would rocket if phone voting was widespread.
“I don’t see a world where the country can survive long term without something that fixes the dysfunction. Maybe this is that something.”
He’s meeting with election officials wherever he can, volunteering to pay for pilot programs, and he expects to work with several states as early as 2020.
Mike Queen, the deputy chief of staff for West Virginia’s secretary of state, told the Times he’s confident the technology “can be perfected, but people have to look at this.”
But Josh Benaloh, a senior cryptographer at Microsoft, told the Times that people who claim they have secure voting technology are selling “magic beans.”
Benaloh sits on a committee of the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine that has warned against the technology.
And David Dill, a computer science expert at Stanford, shares that position.
“It disturbs me that officials are getting enthusiastic about this voting technology without talking to the people who have the expertise to evaluate its security,” he said.
The National Academies committee was blunt: “Secure Internet voting will likely not be feasible in the near future.”
One of the bigger issues is that with no paper ballot, there is no paper trail to verify the results.
But Tusk remains confident that there will be real demand, once “we prove this is a thing that works and people can do it.”
A Heritage Foundation report on 2017 federal cyber breaches noted that in fiscal year 2016, government agencies reported 30,899 information-security incidents, 16 of which met the threshold of being a major incident.
PJ Media said it’s “important to remember that in April the Department of Homeland Security announced that Russian hackers had targeted all 50 states during the 2016 election cycle.”