New Jersey Allows Voting By Email And Fax For Hurricane Victims

Wow. Registered voters in New Jersey displaced by Hurricane Sandy will be permitted to vote by fax or email in the upcoming election. New Jersey, along with about a dozen other states, already permit overseas and military voters to return signed ballots electronically. “To help alleviate pressure on polling places, we encourage voters to either use electronic voting or the extended hours at county offices to cast their vote,” said Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno. Voters can apply to have a ballot sent to them online and when it is returned, election officials will print it out and cross check the information to authenticate the voter’s identity.

Due to security concerns, there are a few countries in the world that have dared to experiment with electronic voting, including Canada, Latvia, and Sweden. Only Estonia permits universal electronic voting, thanks to a sophisticated national ID system that can match ballots to a verified identity. Even with the most advanced national identification system on the planet, some experts maintain that electronic voting isn’t secure. “Online voting is a very unsafe idea and a very bad idea and something I think no technological breakthrough I can foresee can ever change,” argues Johns Hopkins computer science professor, Avi Rubin.

In New Jersey’s case, voters who opt for electronic voting will have to waive their right to privacy, since election officials will have to check the name printed on the ballot against the voter and registration rolls (to avoid duplicates, among other possible sources of fraud and mistakes).

Fraud is unlikely to be a problem for the presidential race in New Jersey, given that Obama is polling, on average, 10 points higher than Romney. However, with the hurricane chaos, anything is possible, and if the vote ends up being close, it’s unclear how officials would be able to accurately double-check all of the votes.