New Jersey To Let 'Displaced' Voters Use Electronic Voting... If They Give Up Secrecy & Return A Hardcopy

from the details,-details dept

Given the still ongoing recovery from Hurricane Sandy in the northeast, New Jersey has decided to deal with potential problems with Tuesday's election by declaring that "displaced" voters can qualify to submit ballots the same way overseas members of the armed services can -- via email or fax, followed up with a hardcopy. They're also allowing early voting, more provisional voting and absentee voting, but the ability to submit by email is generating plenty of attention. Some, like professor Richard Hasen, who is an "election law" expert, worries about the security of such a system, and whether or not ballots could get hacked or lost. Professor Andrew Appel, who has done work with e-voting systems in the past, worries about two things. First, the loss of the secret ballot when you vote this way:
We see already one problem: The loss of the secret ballot. At many times in the 20th century, NJ political machines put such intense pressure on voters that the secret ballot was an important protection. In 2012 it’s in the news that some corporations are pressuring their employees to vote in certain ways. The secret ballot is still critical to the functioning of democracy.
But, he's also worried about the unclear nature of the announcement (pdf), in which it is not emphasized that anyone who votes this way must also submit a hardcopy. He notes that the directive about allowing displaced voters to vote this way left out the line about submitting the hardcopy, and the law is not clear what happens to votes where the hardcopy is not sent as well. The fear then, is that these votes will wind up in court.
Then things really get murky: The statute doesn’t say what happens if the hardcopy is not received, except that the county superintendent of elections must investigate. It’s not difficult to imagine that these ballots will end up in court.

I urge the Lieutenant Governor to issue a revised order, clarifying that displaced voters must immediately follow up by mailing hardcopy identical to their e-mailed ballot–or risk having their votes thrown out.
It does sound like officials in New Jersey now understand this and intend to be much clearer about it, but it is raising reasonable concerns.

Finally, well-known e-voting critic (and New Jersey resident) Ed Felten has actually taken a much more "it's not great, but given the situation, it's okay" type of position.
I am in no way a fan of online voting. Just last week I hosted an online symposium where experts talked about the many barriers to secure online voting. But under these circumstances I can understand why the State has taken the steps it has. The email+hardcopy approach will undermine ballot secrecy, and inevitably some voters will forfeit their votes by failing to submit the follow-on hardcopy ballot correctly. But at the same time, the state is allowing citizens who are facing a tough situation a greater chance to cast their votes. I would strongly oppose any long-term move toward online voting, but I can see the point of allowing limited email+hardcopy voting for displaced voters under these very unusual circumstances.
If the voting in New Jersey turns out weird tomorrow, the conspiracy theories are never going to stop...


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

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    Ninja (profile), Nov 5th, 2012 @ 5:53am

    If the voting in New Jersey turns out weird tomorrow, the conspiracy theories are never going to stop...

    Too late for that my friend, the US has itself submerged till the ears in conspiracy theories. Many of them sparked by its own dubious actions.

     

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    out_of_the_blue, Nov 5th, 2012 @ 7:52am

    Why not JUST the hardcopy?

    Because it's more thrilling to email with a computer! And weenies have to be catered to even though creates problems.

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 5th, 2012 @ 8:01am

    'The secret ballot is still critical to the functioning of democracy.'

    and why the hard copy is being requested is so it isn't a secret ballot any more. democracy may well still be functioning, but it's barely doing so and i doubt for much longer. democratic governments everywhere are becoming more like those they supposedly despise. no one outside of government and big business is allowed privacy and as for any of the freedoms that our forefathers fought so hard for, they are being eroded, rejected and dispelled on a daily basis.

     

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  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    Phil, Nov 5th, 2012 @ 8:03am

    There's No Money in Indie Music: Cat Power Is Broke
    http://www.theatlanticwire.com/entertainment/2012/10/theres-no-money-indie-music-cat-power-br oke/58552/

    Just a little bit of reality to intrude on the groupthink "stealing from musicians is ok" crowd here.

     

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      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Nov 5th, 2012 @ 8:07am

      Re:

      Your corporate paymasters aren't going to be happy with you if you keep spamming that to non-relevant threads.

       

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      Forest_GS (profile), Nov 5th, 2012 @ 8:11am

      Re:

      I don't trust that site, too much reporting on how the politicians were hurt by the hurricane.

       

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    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Nov 5th, 2012 @ 8:15am

      Re:

      Boohoo, a business failed. Join the club. Businesses fail every day.

      Being able to make money out of something you enjoy doing is a privilege, not a right. If it was a right, we'd all be astronauts and race car drivers.

       

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      PaulT (profile), Nov 5th, 2012 @ 8:22am

      Re:

      "reality"

      Apparently you not only don't know what the reality of the opinions you're attacking actually is (hint: what you said is a lie), but you also can't address the reality of the thread you've posted in, where this is totally irrelevant even if there was a shred of truth. Bravo, I guess.

       

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    Forest_GS (profile), Nov 5th, 2012 @ 8:05am

    I think using e-mail as the base of a voting system would be foolproof. The front-end would only accept properly formatted e-mails and process the text in the e-mail, making it impossible to hack the system...unless the system that verifies the e-mail votes is connected to the internet. There are ways to make it so it cannot send any data, it would be much harder to hack a system that doesn't send data because the hacker wouldn't know what did what.

    By properly formatted e-mails, I mean the voting office would provide a template for the voters to put the data in.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Nov 5th, 2012 @ 8:21am

      Re:

      I can send an e-mail sounding like it's coming from you right now. It's quite simple. So, no, e-mail would NOT be a good answer.

       

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        snowburn14, Nov 5th, 2012 @ 9:36am

        Re: Re:

        I sincerely doubt anyone was proposing that the identity/voting eligibility be determined by the email address that (appeared to have) sent the ballot in. Last I checked, my email addresses weren't registered with the government anywhere (unless the IRS keeps a database that includes the address I gave for e-filing refund status)

        That said, I'm curious how they *would* verify eligibility and one person/one vote criteria. Trying to do that in person without requiring what amounts to a poll tax has always seemed a tricky tight-rope walk to me. Doing it online would make it more of a tight-string...

         

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          Michael, Nov 5th, 2012 @ 11:13am

          Re: Re: Re:

          If you think the US government cannot identify you as the sender of an email, you must have missed the past couple of decades during which this country became a police state.

           

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      PaulT (profile), Nov 5th, 2012 @ 8:26am

      Re:

      You don't know how email actually works, do you? The formatting would be the least of the security problems.

       

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      John Fenderson (profile), Nov 5th, 2012 @ 8:30am

      Re:

      I'm pretty sure that I don't really understand your proposal fully, but...

      I think using e-mail as the base of a voting system would be foolproof


      Email is just a transport mechanism, like any other. Except that it is one of the least secure ones, as email is incredibly easy to spoof.

      The front-end would only accept properly formatted e-mails and process the text in the e-mail, making it impossible to hack the system


      How would this make it impossible to hack the system. BTW, as a computer security professional, let me assure you that there's no such thing as a system that is impossible to to hack.

      The solution to make the system hack-resistant (hack-proof is impossible, but that's not because the internet or computers are involved. The traditional systems aren't hack-proof either) is encryption.

      No system that relies on a shared secret, particularly not an easy-to-determine-and communicate secret such as the format of an email, is secure.

      (For the pedants out there, one time pads are best-case shared secrets and mostly secure, assuming that the pads themselves can be communicated securely and that they are truly random. Those two conditions are really hard to achieve, though.)

       

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        Antsy Pantsy, Nov 5th, 2012 @ 8:55am

        Re: Re:

        "let me assure you that there's no such thing as a system that is impossible to hack."

        Whilst I agree with your sentiments, I now challenge you hack into the calculator I currently have in my underwear. Btw, I have taken the batteries out.

         

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    Jesse (profile), Nov 5th, 2012 @ 8:11am

    They don't necessarily end up in court.

    They are counted in a separate category, as potential problems.

    If the votes are tallied without those ballots, and the divide between the winner and runner up are decided regardless of the problem ballots, then there is no issue. Otherwise, they end up in court.

     

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    droozilla (profile), Nov 5th, 2012 @ 8:28am

    Sounds like a convenient way for them to send us Gary Johnson voters to the spam folder.

     

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    Atkray (profile), Nov 5th, 2012 @ 8:32am

    One question

    Who are the politicians that own the the shell company that holds the patent on a method for "voting in the aftermath of a calamity on the internet"?

     

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    Alec Perkins, Nov 5th, 2012 @ 8:38am

    Given how chaotic things have been here (Hoboken) following Hurricane Sandy, I am very impressed with what the state and city are doing to ensure that everyone gets the opportunity to vote. Some polling places were severely damaged or destroyed, and thousands of people are still away from their homes. Transportation into the city is still very difficult for many. Reinventing the polling system in a matter of days, while cleaning up from a hurricane, is not easy.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 5th, 2012 @ 8:42am

    misleading if you read the link number 4.

     

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    Devils_Advocate (profile), Nov 5th, 2012 @ 8:46am

    Another way to get screwed...

    I can see it now.
    Start sending votes by e-mail, and afterwards you'll be hearing about how so many messages were trashed by the spam filter.

     

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    Stinky Winkle, Nov 5th, 2012 @ 8:51am

    sort of makes sense, but it is messy

    People say "I actually want to vote, but I can't because I can't get home. Why can't I just email you?"

    State says "Erm, yeah, ok. But how do I know that it's really you emailing? We don't have time to set up a proper online system now. We don't want to be sued for disenfranchising people."

    People say "So is that a yes or a no?"

    State says "Well, OK, you can do it, as long as you sign and send a piece of paper your voting card confirming that it was you who voted and that you won't sue us if we get it wrong."

    What I don't understand is, if they need the hard copy in the post, why they don't just use postal voting instead?

     

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      The eejit (profile), Nov 5th, 2012 @ 8:56am

      Re: sort of makes sense, but it is messy

      Because the votes would have needed to be in today to count. So, e-mail+hard-copy = delays.

      Plus, can you imagine the shitstorm should those votes make a difference after the ones who failed to send in hard-copy were taken into account?

       

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      Alec Perkins, Nov 5th, 2012 @ 8:58am

      Re: sort of makes sense, but it is messy

      They must receive the vote by the deadline, but mail service is still disrupted and would take too long. By doing email + hardcopy, they can satisfy receiving the vote in time, but also get verification to prevent fraud.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 5th, 2012 @ 9:49am

    New Jersey seating...

    If the voting in New Jersey turns out weird tomorrow, the conspiracy theories are never going to stop...

    If anybody's wondering, 538.com listed Obama at +11.6% and the Senate race with Menendez(D) is at +14%. These offices can be described as "Safe Democratic".

    Wikipedia shows that New Jersey has 13 congressional seats. Currently 6 Democrats and 6 Republicans hold these seats. One seat is vacant when Donald Payne(D) passed way in March.

     

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    Chris in Utah (profile), Nov 6th, 2012 @ 4:51pm

    conspiracy? HA

    http://www.blackboxvoting.org/

    There's more to know if one is to look critically

     

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