Jan 22, 2020

Internet voting takes flight

illustration of a phone behind avoting booth
Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

A small agency in Washington state is about to break new ground by letting residents vote by smartphone.

Why it matters: The U.S. suffers from chronically low voter turnout, but experts are concerned that internet voting is vulnerable to hacking and manipulation.

  • "There is a firm consensus in the cybersecurity community that mobile voting on a smartphone is a really stupid idea," computer science professor Duncan Buell told NPR, which first reported on the voting plan.
  • "I don't know that I have run across cybersecurity experts whose mortgages are not paid by a mobile-voting company who think it's a good idea."

The big picture: There's a world of difference between federal elections and more local races, and this is definitely the latter.

  • Voters will log in using their names and birthdays and verify their votes with a signature on their device.
  • Washington state already votes by mail, so election officials have experience with signature verification, the head of the company providing the tech told NPR.

Between the lines: The officials plan to make copies of the votes for auditing, but this wouldn't solve manipulation before votes are cast.

  • "If you're doing phone voting or internet voting, it's pretty much 'garbage in, garbage out,'" the former chief technologist at the Center for Democracy and Technology told NPR.
  • The other side: Concerned voters can also use the portal to fill in their ballots, print them off, and mail them in, NPR notes.

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