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electionlineWeekly — March 6, 2014

Table of Contents

I. In Focus This Week

New effort to assist military/overseas voters
Overseas Vote Foundation studies new remote voting program

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Making sure every vote counts and every vote is secure is of the utmost importance to all elections officials.

 

When the voters are members of our military or residents serving and living abroad, the counting of those votes is as important, it’s just a bit more complex.

 

Through the years there have been a variety of legislative measures such as the MOVE Act to make sure that ballots are sent to and accepted from overseas voters in a timely fashion.

 

There have been some attempts — some somewhat successful, some not-so-much — to create secure systems for overseas residents to case their ballots electronically.

 

Now the Overseas Vote Foundation (OVF) is conducting a new study that will team up scientists and state and local elections officials to look at the feasibility of end-to-end, verifiable, secure Internet voting for military and overseas voters.

 

The project is called End-to-End Verifiable Internet Voting: Specification and Feasibility Assessment Study (E2E VIV Project) and will examine a form of remote voting that enables a so-called “end-to-end verifiability” (E2E) property.

 

“In this study, we aim to examine and potentially make the case that use of the Internet enables and facilitates the introduction of E2E-verifiability and that the benefits of E2E-V may be able to overcome the vulnerabilities introduced by using the Internet,” explained Susan Dzieduszycka-Suinat, president and CEO, U.S. and Overseas Vote Foundation.

 

So for the layperson, just what does end-to-end mean? Electionline reached out to Tom Bridge with Technolutionary, LLC for an explanation.

 

“When you connect to the Internet, and go to a website, your connection might go through ten or fifteen different connection points to get there. For a lot of connections, that process doesn’t matter. No one will care if you’re visiting the Washington Post for some news, or ESPN for a sports score,” Bridge explained. “But, when it comes to something important, like credit card data, or voting, that the entire path be protected. That means that when data goes to a workstation abroad, it needs to be encrypted in a way that prevents tampering and prevents hijacking. It’s important that the data be passed in a way that keeps it from prying eyes.”

 

The E2E VIV project aims to produce a system specification and set of testing scenarios, which if they meet the requirements for security, auditability, and usability, will then be placed in the public domain.

 

“No participant on this project discounts the concerns of voting over the Internet, nor do they view E2E-verifiability as a magic sauce that makes the Internet secure,” Dzieduszycka-Suinat said. “Nevertheless they believe that E2E-V warrants examination in regards to the properties it achieves.”

 

According to Dzieduszycka-Suinat, the E2E VIV Project has three main goals:

  • Usability/Accessibility: this project will delineate and assess the E2E-verifiable voting protocol with usability and accessibility foremost in mind and determine if it meets requirements;
  • Security: the project will determine an optimal specification for a remote, end-to-end, verifiable Internet Voting (IV) system. It will guarantee an acceptable level of security to demonstrate to voters that their ballots are counted as cast. It will offer a method for signaling any suspicion and enable reparative action; and
  • Testing: the project will set an example of open testing and evaluation of any IV system. We will determine means for providing reasonable evidence that security is maintained. Voters and observers will be able to perform their own external validation of correct system performance.

 

Dzieduszycka-Suinat noted that, this is a phase I project to specify a system and that they are currently not building any system and it is not determined yet if that is even possible.

 

The project, funded by a grant through Democracy Fund [also a funder of electionline], should take about 18 months and will be complete by May of 2015.

 

Editor’s Note: Next week we will take a look at a military/overseas voting project being conducted by the South Dakota Secretary of State’s office.