This is probably a case of where the idea is sound but humans will no doubt muck everything up. Thirty-three states here in the good ol’ U.S. will allow military and overseas citizens to vote via the Internet beginning with the mid-term election in November. This is being done in part to ensure that overseas voters’ votes, you know, count. I don’t know how many of y’all have ever lived overseas, but it’s probably easier to find Jay Leno funny than it is to obtain a ballot, then have it count. It’s 2010 and we still don’t have simple things like voting figured out. Amazing.
In steps the Internet to the rescue, right? The idea is to have these voters (including military personnel) vote via the Internet in some capacity. Now, whether or not that means you’ll be able to e-mail some overseas county clerk, as it were, with the subject MY VOTE and the body I VOTE FOR CANDIDATE A, HE’S COOL AND STUFF is completely unknown. There’s been a bunch of trial programs to figure our exactly how the votes would be cast. Do you set up a VPN for votes to pass through? Maybe a special Web site with super fancy authentication? No idea.
The problem with this, of course, is that the Internet is wildly insecure. Any teen with a copy of ettercap could, if he wanted, snoop an entire cafe’s Internet traffic while sipping a latte. Don’t think SSL will protect you, because it won’t! I’ve seen it effortlessly defeated so many times that I’m hesitant to even check my throwaway Gmail account on a public connection (airport Wi-Fi, at the café, heck, even at the TechCrunch office in New York). Unless I can see the pipe coming from the street into my modem, then to my router, I have zero control over who or what could possibly “hack” my connection.
When you’re dealing with something as important as voting, you can guarantee that there will be people looking to cause trouble—it’s just human nature (which is partially why I want “I, Robot” to actually happen).
Internet voting: a solution to a very real problem that unfortunately will never work as well as you’d like. Maybe it would work if people weren’t jerks…