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Regarding Internet Voting in Washington State

By       Message Ellen Theisen     Permalink

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View Ratings | Rate It Headlined to H3 2/13/09

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On February 11, I spoke with Nick Handy, Washington State-s election director regarding the Internet voting bill now in the State House and Senate. He said that they want the bill so they can go forward with a study to see if Internet voting can be implemented securely and privately for our UOCAVA voters. He also said that the next step would be to extend it to the population in general. He said that if they discover it can't be done well, they will not implement it -- not until it can be done well.

But this is small comfort, given how ill-informed he and others in the office are. I told him that NIST, GAO, and dozens of computer scientists and security experts warn against using the Internet for voting with its current architecture and mentioned that NIST said technology widely available today isn't able to mitigate the threats. He said that wasn't NIST's conclusion, and I told him it was practically a direct quote from their report.

Clearly our SoS office has done no research into the matter. In fact, Mr. Handy said as much. They don't want to waste time researching it if the legislature doesn't authorize using it. So they are pushing it, telling the legislature it can be made secure and private, without any evidence or research to back them up, and even in the face of evidence to the contrary. Some in the legislature appear to be trusting their word, ignorant of the fact that the SoS has done no research. And many of them are not trusting us who have done research.

I asked Mr. Handy why they felt it necessary to remove the scheme from the oversight of RCW 29a.12. He asked, "What's that?" I said "the Washington State law governing voting system requirements". He said Katie Blinn was taking the lead on this and he didn't know why she requested that part of the bill.

I asked what they had in mind for alternate funding. He said they were looking at three potential sources: Pew grant, FVAP grant, HAVA funds. However, we have heard from other sources that FVAP does not give grants and that Pew is not prepared to support Internet voting at this time. Indeed, Pew's recent report warns against it for UOCAVA voters. It is also questionable whether HAVA funds can be used for an Internet voting system that wasn't included in the state's HAVA plan.

Rather than authorizing the Secretary to be the sole judge of whether an Internet voting system is secure and private, the legislature should prohibit Internet voting until the Secretary can demonstrate to the legislature and the public that he has consulted with experts and determined that such a system would be feasible.

Rather than authorizing the Secretary to seek "alternate funding" for this study, the legislature should specify guidelines for that funding.

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Rather than removing the protections of RCW29a.12 wholesale, the legislature should ensure that any voting system employed in Washington meet standards set by law, including a definition of "secure."

Ellen Theisen

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