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New Jersey Residents Displaced By Storm Can Vote By Email 189

Posted by timothy
from the early-often-and-insecurely dept.
First time accepted submitter danbuter writes "In probably the most poorly thought-out reaction to allowing people displaced by Hurricane Sandy in New Jersey [to take part in the 2012 presidential election], residents will be allowed to vote by email. Of course, this will be completely secure and work perfectly!" Writes user Beryllium Sphere: "There's no mention of any protocol that might possibly make this acceptable. Perhaps the worst thing that could happen would be if it appears to work OK and gains acceptance." I know someone they should consult first.
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New Jersey Residents Displaced By Storm Can Vote By Email

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  • I didn't know (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mwvdlee (775178) on Sunday November 04, 2012 @09:23AM (#41871815) Homepage

    I didn't know New Jersey had over 5 billion residents.
    Or atleast that's my estimate of the amount of votes they'll be recieving.

  • by thrill12 (711899) on Sunday November 04, 2012 @09:42AM (#41871909) Journal
    ..as they ask for a "waiver of secrecy": they actually *realize* that the e-mail voting will need the removal of one of they key things in a democratic election: the secrecy of voting. Now an actual record of the vote is transmitted in the clear (when using e-mail) and if anyone coerced said voter they will have undisputable proof what that person voted. I gues the OSCE will write this down in their report [osce.org]...
  • by mysidia (191772) on Sunday November 04, 2012 @09:42AM (#41871913)

    they'll check the names against the voter rolls just like they do when you vote in person.

    Unfortunately, the list of names on the voter roles is public.

    Will they be smart enough to check that for every ballot received by mail, there was actually an application for a ballot by that person?

  • The next day.... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Lumpy (12016) on Sunday November 04, 2012 @09:45AM (#41871929) Homepage

    It is amazing! New Jersey had 100% voter turnout and that ALL voted for Romney! It is awesome to see that this state in the face of disaster can turn out a voting percentage that no other state has EVER turned out!

    Pundits point at this as an effect of how the TV show Jersey Shore has given NJ residents that the new president will pass a law to get it taken off the air and the cast exiled.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 04, 2012 @09:57AM (#41871989)

    All voters in Oregon vote by mail. Each ballot is submitted with a signature on the outside envelope. That signature is matched against the voting rolls before the ballot is counted. The ballot is in a secrecy envelope so the person opening it during the counting process doesn't know whose vote it is.

    There are several problems with the process described here that make it different. The first is that an electronic signature can be a scanned copy obtained from a different document. The second, raised elsewhere, is that the ballot is not secret. The third is that someone could electronically modify the ballot during and stage of the process. This seems to be relying on a form of "security by obscurity". For a small number of ballots that is probably sufficient. But if you get a large number of ballots it will be an inviting target for someone trying to alter the outcome of the election.

  • by Guppy06 (410832) on Sunday November 04, 2012 @10:30AM (#41872129)

    If the USA was a true democracy, it would defer the vote until after the clean-up,

    "For the duration of the crisis?" Who gets to decide when it's over, the Senate or Caesar?

    Democracy cannot be considered a luxury that one can "put off" when times are bad. Rather, the government needs to double down and make sure polling places and post offices are secure and accessible, no less so than food, water and shelter.

  • Re:I didn't know (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Hentes (2461350) on Sunday November 04, 2012 @10:31AM (#41872131)

    And that has nothing to do with email voting.

  • by Svartalf (2997) on Sunday November 04, 2012 @11:00AM (#41872271) Homepage

    Ah, but we're not a Democracy. Democracy is MOB RULE.

    We're a Democratically Elected Republic- and you should learn the distinction and learn it well.

  • by mellon (7048) on Sunday November 04, 2012 @11:13AM (#41872353) Homepage

    How would that work? Suppose I get a ballot, and scan it, and that scan gets out. The "cryptographic signature" will be on every copy of the scan. How will they know which one is mine? I think in this case, if what you suggest were true, my vote would either not be counted, or would be swamped by all the hacked copies. Either way, I lose.

    Cryptography isn't a magic want that you can wave over a security problem to make it go away. It's a useful tool, but this is a _really_ hard problem, and what's been proposed here is not in any way secure.

  • by meglon (1001833) on Sunday November 04, 2012 @11:21AM (#41872413)

    For example, Obama more than doubled the budget deficit.

    It's too bad more people don't have a basic grasp of reality. The day Obama took office, the deficit was projected at over a trillion dollars for that year... a deficit on a budget put forward by: Bush.

    Lets get to the heart of the matter though. Bush kept his budget deficits low (if you consider half a trillion low) by keeping both wars and homeland security entirely off budget. There's a minimum 300 billion a year that wasn't applied to the deficit as it should have been. I know, fucking idiot republicans believe all the bullshit their told, but reality is reality.

    In addition to that, Obama's budget last year added in the interest on the national debt, something that hadn't been done. There's another 250 billion that was going directly to the national debt that wasn't in Bush's budgets (to be fair, it wasn't in anyone's budgets until Obama put it in there... which is why Clinton had budget surpluses, yet the national debt still went up).

    Obama's deficit now contains Bush's wars, homeland security spending, and the interest on the national debt. If those numbers were added to Bush's "budgets," his deficits would have run 650 billion to over a trillion EVERY SINGLE YEAR.

    Now lets talk about where else our debt came from. The day Bush Jr entered office, the 10 year projected SURPLUS was ~5.3 trillion. The national debt at that time was ~5.7 trillion. So, did republicans step up and make the "hard" choice of leaving in place policy that was projected to pay off almost the entire national debt in 10 years? Fuck no, they're too big of fucking hypocrites, and completely incapable of governing EVERY time they get into power. Those fucks voted in a tax cut that sent massive mounts of your grand children's money to the wealthiest people in this country.

    Add in two wars put directly onto the credit card, the drug medicare/medicaid give away of taxpayer money to pharmaceutical companies, and you have MASSIVE DEBT SPENDING that anyone other than a totally fucked in the head conservative ideologue could spot from another galaxy.

    ...and the worthless republican fucks want to blame Obama for everything. Take a quarter, and go buy a fucking clue... you need one, desperately.

  • Re:I didn't know (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Derek Pomery (2028) on Sunday November 04, 2012 @12:14PM (#41872781)

    Even if an online voting system could be implemented in perfect security, I'm still bothered by the fact that the voting booth is supposed to be influence free.

    If you go vote, people pressuring you have to stay like 50 metres away from the polling place.

    There is no such protection in online voting. A church could put the computer, oh, right in front of the altar and have the congregation line up. Heck. There's a lot of concern about buying votes (personally I'm thinking if you think someone will stay bought for $100 against their conscience, eh, welcome to try). But that whole situation changes with online voting. Again, can have people vote right at their workstation for a bonus in the next paycheck.

    I'm sure there'd be proposals of laws against it, but, enforcement is still an issue. Esp since pressure can be as simple as peer pressure.

    BTW, on the buying votes front, supposedly each campaign is spending over $1000 per undecided voter in swing states, w/ actual impact of the ads being very hard to measure. Amusing.

    Reminds me of all the concern about rich people being able to self-fund campaigns. Should ask Meg Whitman how that worked out for her.

  • Re:Estonia (Score:5, Insightful)

    by plover (150551) on Sunday November 04, 2012 @12:40PM (#41872977) Homepage Journal

    The reporter is obviously confused about the meaning of 'freedom'. The real problems with online voting have less to do with the technology and more to do with the integrity of the process.

    Even if an online system worked perfectly, how do you know that when Joe cast his vote that Frank wasn't standing behind him with a gun in one hand and $100 in the other? You don't.

    Now, that's a problem with absentee ballots as well, you might say, and you would be right. But the effective difference is the difficulty of scaling fraud up in the physical world as opposed to scaling up fraud in an online world. I might be a rich gangster and hire 10 thugs to influence 10 votes. But as a crooked employer, I could monitor the voting of thousands of employees, and I'd know exactly who is on the short list to be promoted.

    Preventing coercion requires the act of moving a voter into a secluded voting booth, with a truly secret ballot.

  • by goodmanj (234846) on Sunday November 04, 2012 @01:42PM (#41873359)

    Let me play devil's advocate here. While we all know that email is insecure, as a practical matter the security holes in this are roughly equal to vote-by-mail. Not that that's a good thing, but this doesn't introduce many new problems. The NJ elections directive recognizes this, and treats displaced voters as "overseas" for the purpose of election rules.

    Summary of the procedure:
    * Your voter registration is already on fiile.
    * You email a request for your ballot
    * The elections agency marks your ballot number in the registry, sends you a ballot with a unique ID, along with a waiver of secrecy.
    * You fill out the ballot and the waiver, and send them back.

    Can we spam the election with billions of votes? No. Well, you can send the emails, but they won't have the right ID numbers so they won't be counted.
    Can we hijack individuals' votes by voting for them, or by changing their vote via a man-in-the-middle attack? Yes, but you can do this by paper mail too, and it's a one-vote-at-a-time thing.
    Do we lose the secrecy of the ballot booth? Yes, but that's lost in vote-by-mail too, and voters choose whether they'd rather submit a non-secret ballot, or trudge through miles of floodwaters to cast their vote in person.

    The practical question you've got to ask yourself is not "could someone be disenfranchised by this?" but "will more people be disenfranchised by doing this than by *not* doing it?"

    In short, adding "e-" to a technology doesn't miraculously make it evil or cool. And in this case, the security holes are roughly equal to a system already in common use. As a mandatory universal voting system, email voting would be an abhorrent violation of civil rights. As a short-term, *optional* response to a major emergency, it's worth considering.

A motion to adjourn is always in order.

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