Pentagon continues secret work on Internet voting system that would make it easier to rig elections
by: J. D. Heyes
(NaturalNews) The Defense Department has been sued by a nonprofit watchdog organization after failing for more than three years to divulge results of testing on the security of online voting systems that are used more and more often by Americans casting absentee ballots.
According to McClatchyDC, the Pentagon’s Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) “has effectively bankrolled many states’ shift to online voting, disbursing tens of millions of dollars in grants,” so they could buy equipment which includes Internet balloting technology.
The failure to disclose and ongoing secrecy has drawn the ire of cyber experts who have warned for years that Internet voting systems are likely and easy targets for hackers who would be able to tamper with and even rig elections. In addition, they note, the government’s own top technology testing agency has also refused to issue an endorsement of the systems.
That’s a problem, critics say, especially as the November midterm elections fast approach; more than a million people have already cast ballots, according to The Associated Press. Since 2010, that early voting trend has only grown.
‘We don’t have to release the data yet’
So, says one electronic privacy organization, that makes the issue all the more important. McClatchy further reported:
Now, on the eve of another federal election in which at least 31 states plan to use some form of online voting, the Electronic Privacy Information Center [EPIC] is pressing a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit demanding disclosure of the test results so it can disseminate the information nationwide.
In a statement to the newspaper group, FVAP officials said that they expect to release results of security testing in 2015. And because they “contribute to the larger, ongoing decision-making process” regarding the Pentagon agency’s congressional mandate to stage a demonstration of the technology surrounding electronic voting, officials said the results of those trials are considered “pre-decisional,” which makes them exempt from being disclosed — for the time being.
EPIC filed its suit Sept. 11 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, the circuit that hears cases involving conduct of federal agencies, as well as rules and regulations that they issue. It is the latest battle in a long-brewing conflict over the Pentagon agency’s role, which is primarily to ensure that deployed troops and other Americans living abroad can vote by absentee ballot.
FVAP said it has staged tests for use by another agency, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, which is trying to establish standards for Internet voting systems. However, a dearth of appointed commissioners has curtailed the agency’s mission and progress; as such, the Pentagon says it is preparing to release data on its test results on its own.
As McClatchy further noted:
The agency has walked a fine line since Congress declined in a 2005 law to endorse electronic voting systems until it receives assurance from the National Institute of Standards and Technology that they are secure and reliable.
‘Hackers could affect large numbers of votes’
The last time the standards agency had anything to say on the matter was in 2012, when it concluded that Internet voting systems “cannot currently be audited” with any degree of confidence, because there is no verifiable paper trail like there is with electronic voting systems in use at polling stations around the country.
Because of that, it said, “additional research and development is needed to overcome these challenges before secure Internet voting will be feasible.”
In a previous statement in 2011, the institute claimed that it would be “difficult to mitigate” malicious software attacks on the personal computers of voters, because those are outside the control of election officials. And while each attack would simply impact that single vote, “attackers have demonstrated an ability to infect a large number of clients, and thus client-side attacks have the ability to have a large-scale impact,” the institute said.
FVAP officials have said they don’t favor online voting but don’t mind having Americans use an online form to mark a ballot that they then have to print out and mail in.