• United States
News Editor

Vote ‘nay’ on ‘Net balloting

Feb 02, 20043 mins

Someone has to put a stop to this Internet voting madness before its unholy alliance of technological arrogance, greed and political opportunism does real harm to our democracy.

And you – the Network World reader – are in a far better position than most to help steer this ship away from that iceberg. You’re a concerned citizen, a voter and a network security expert: Get on the horn or write to your lawmakers. Tell anyone who will listen that Internet balloting – at least for anything more important than American Idol – is just plain nuts.

You don’t have to say nuts. Feel free to be more polite.

As you might have read, a panel of four security experts recently came to just that conclusion – without actually saying nuts – after they were asked to assess the Secure Electronic Registration and Voting Experiment, which actually is neither secure nor an experiment. SERVE is the Defense Department’s answer to making voting easier than mail-in absentee ballots for 6 million U.S. residents – mostly military personnel – living abroad. You can read the unambiguously damning report.

The bottom line: Any Internet voting system is simply too vulnerable to attack and manipulation to justify deployment at any time in the foreseeable future.

Much of the press coverage since its release has focused on whether the critics are correct in their assessment that SERVE is a sieve that cannot be fixed.

The truth is that it doesn’t matter – for at least two reasons.

First, this is a classic case of perception being everything. An Internet-based voting mechanism could be as secure as the limits of human ingenuity allow, but even a 100% bulletproof system – presuming such a thing is possible – means nothing if a meaningful chunk of the public lacks faith in its infallibility.

The public will lack faith . . . because it should lack faith.

Those who argue that the current voting system has its own flaws that already engender suspicion and scandal miss the point: Adding to those vulnerabilities and doubts – especially on the scale that Internet voting would bring – makes no sense whatsoever when the payoff is as inconsequential as incremental convenience for voters.

The second reason that all the debate about SERVE’s security doesn’t matter is that its sponsors – ostensibly the military, but more widely the military’s political overseers – insist they are taking this baby live in November come hell or hackers. They have essentially told the critics that their concerns aren’t worth a pile of chads, which is odd to say the least because it was SERVE’s sponsors who asked the security experts for their opinions.

The arrogance is utterly astounding given what’s known about the Internet and what is at stake if SERVE’s security is breached.

As you can probably gather, this headlong rush into online voting – damn the consequences – makes my blood boil in a way that few other issues do. And that’s not a good thing for me these days . . . read on.

So here’s where I’ve been

They were the second-most-shocking words I’d ever heard from a medical professional: “You’re having a heart attack.”

(The first? . . . “You’re having triplets.”)

Minor heart attack is an oxymoron, of course, yet mine four days before Christmas was thankfully on the less-damaging end of the scale. A stent, an unappealing diet and a newfound commitment to daily exercise are the most prominent aftereffects.

It’s nice to be back . . . oh, yeah, it’s nice to be back.