Internet voting flawed

With a heavily criticized federal budget, it would be assumed that wasteful spending of America’s tax dollars would be curtailed at least somewhat. However, the Pentagon followed the tradition of superfluous government spending by funding a $6.2 million system to allow a handful of people to participate in an already botched election.

The Pentagon’s decision to let overseas soldiers vote via the Internet resulted in only 84 participants for an average of $74,000 per vote. Pentagon officials should have ensured that enough servicemen were actually planning on using the system before going ahead with it. Millions of dollars could have been saved if the 84 soldiers had sent their ballots through the post office with the other overseas votes.

Not only is the desire lacking on the soldiers’ parts, but the technology is not developed enough to guarantee accurate and fair voting. The current system is not secure against viruses, hackers or fraud. According to researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, even the most high-tech electronic voting systems used today still produce just as many errors as basic punch-card machines. The MIT/Cal Tech voting technology study will be important for future elections, and computer scientists involved in the study note that there are no solutions in sight for Internet-based voting. Given the possible security risks in the Pentagon system, it is fortunate that its use had not been more widespread among servicemen.

The Pentagon, however, says the system wasn’t meant to guard against every possible security threat. Pentagon officials must have already realized the American voting system was so skewed that the small number of votes wouldn’t matter, a realization that the entire country faced on election day 2000. Despite its flaws, the Pentagon deemed the new voting system a success, claiming it was an experiment to see if Internet voting could become a reality. According to the Pentagon, the cost per vote should be overlooked, and the focus should be shifted to the fact that Internet voting worked.

The $6.2 million included designing custom software for the ballots, installing the computers needed to run the system, coordinating with local election officials and studying the results. The Pentagon should not have been so quick to launch the Internet-based system without fully understanding the impact it could have on the democratic process. More research on Internet voting technologies is necessary, and the integrity of online voting systems must be firmly established before they become a common voting method.