Thursday, November 17, 2011

Cyber Bullying in Connecticut: A Lesson in Empathy

Cyber bullying is the mean and unfair treatment of a person on the Internet. They had a feeding frenzy of it recently in Connecticut.[1] Before I report what happened there, please keep this set of questions in mind. That is, suppose a woman is the only one wearing a red dress at a party. During the event, the guy with the loudest mouth blurts out “of all the styles of dresses, the red dress is the bottom of the barrel!” How would the lone red dress wearer feel? Happy? Complimented? Attacked? Angry? Embarrassed? How would you feel? Here's what happened.

An anti-Internet voting political science department in a Connecticut university, and their allies, organized a lop-sided panel to “discuss” the pros and cons of the Northern state taking up Internet voting for their overseas military personnel. Three avidly anti-Internet voting computer science professors, and a rich lady who owns an anti-Internet voting website, were on one side of the panel. Completely alone on the other side was Natalie Tennant, Secretary of State for West Virginia.[2]

This wasn’t an actual “discussion;” instead, it was an online propaganda festival of anti-Internet voting negativity interspersed with just a few positive statements from Secretary Tennant. Ron Rivest, one of the biased computer scientists, provided some telling examples of the lack of scientific sophistication his side displayed. Early in the proceeding Professor Rivest wittily declared that the term “Internet voting” is an oxymoron, like “safe cigarettes.” Cute, but where’s the science? At no point in the day did he, or any of the opposition, present any facts about actual breaches of security in an Internet voting trial (except, of course, the DC hack, which was not an actual election [3]).

When the moderator suggested that there are several different types of voting technology, Prof Rivest blurted out that Internet voting is “the bottom of the barrel!”

Despite those comments, Secretary Tennant encouraged Connecticut to use Internet voting for its overseas military voters. She stated that the West Virginia legislature had long been concerned that members of the overseas military were unable to vote because the method of voting by mail was too inconvenient and prone to errors. After the 2009 MOVE Act required the states to set up systems for electronically sending ballots to overseas military, the state legislature began considering legislation to allow her office to set up a system of Internet voting. The resulting legislation passed unanimously.

The new law required an initial trial involving just a few counties. The first test was the primary vote in 2010. It went so well that Secretary Tennant asked the legislature to expand the number of counties involved for the general election vote, which they promptly did.

Professor Halderman interrupted Ms. Tennant and demanded to know how her office vetted the companies that provided the Internet voting service. She replied that the vendors had to agree to several conditions. One of these was that third party experts had to be allowed to inspect the equipment and operating codes the vendors used. She said the companies not only agreed to these conditions, but offered to do the whole job for free, as a demonstration project. Given that situation, the Secretary’s office decided not to exercise its right to bring in a third party inspector. She said she trusted the companies.

At one point, Prof Rivest, who had never had any personal interaction with the company representatives, declared that the vendors could be corrupt and she wouldn’t know it. Isn’t that possible, he demanded.

She said that besides trusting the vendor you have to trust every kind of vote counting machine, not just Internet voting servers. CT, for example, uses optical scanning machines to count its votes. The voter fills in a bubble with a pencil on a paper card. But suppose one of the employees feeding the cards to the scanning machine in the election office is an unscrupulous partisan. He can hide a piece of pencil lead under his finger nail, and put an extra mark on cards with votes he doesn’t like. Then the machine would reject the card as a double vote, and nobody would know that a vote had been sabotaged.

Her point, of course, is that every complex vote counting system requires some degree of trust. Election officials have to exercise their professional judgment as to when such trust is reasonable. In reply to a question from the moderator, Ms. Tennant stated that she trusted the workers in her department because it was like a small community. She trusted the system because it used military grade encryption, had an intrusion detection function, and other security checks. She also pointed out that it was a serious felony to tamper with elections, and this law is a part of the security system.

Professor Halderman pressed the matter by demanding to know if West Virginia would allow hackers a chance to try to hack into the system, like the officials did in Washington DC. She said that the system actually belonged to the companies, and that the state lacked the authority to invite hackers to freely test the system.

He: What’s so secret that venders won’t open it up?
She: I can’t answer for them, professor.
He: Why didn’t you require a public test?
She: (With a smile,) we did do some testing, and caught an inverted number.
He: In the future would you run a public trial, like DC?
She: I can’t say right now.

The website owner, Ms. Dzieduszycka-Suinat, suggested that West Virginia was using its overseas military voters as “guinea pigs.” Later Prof Rivest blurted out, with all the science he could muster, that Internet voting is “like skating on thin ice.”

Undaunted, Ms. Tennant stated in her concluding remarks that she still feels that she made the right judgment by trusting the companies. She felt that she was doing the right thing for West Virginia’s military voters. Her husband is stationed in Afghanistan, and he saw first hand how difficult voting is for many of the service members there. She has recieved letters of gratitude from military personnel. The lone defender of Internet voting on this panel, she said that if she must, for the sake of her military voters, (and I quote) “I’ll continue to sit up here and take the attacks, take the arrows ... and things like that!”

As the panelists rose from their seats to leave the stage, Ron Rivest was heard to exclaim, “Internet voting is like drunk driving,” and he burst into triumphant laughter.

[1] See video at[2] See Natalie Tennant: Internet Voting Profile in Courage
[3] RE: DC see

Email Denise Merrill Connecticut Secretary of State and ask that she follow West Virginia’s lead to serve CT’s military voters:
William J. Kelleher, Ph.D.
Twitter: wjkno1
Author of Internet Voting Now!
Kindle edition:
In paper:

Cyberulling, of course, is not limited to supporters of Internet voting. See this informative article --  Cyberbullying: How Bullies Have Moved From the Playground to the Web

For more on Alex Halderman see, in this blog,

Alex Halderman Debates Internet Voting Security w/ Me

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Rebuttal to David Jefferson’s Brief against Internet Voting

As Professor Hasen shows in his forthcoming book, Voting Wars, conflict over the way we conduct elections in the US is increasing. One of the areas of disagreement is whether or not the US should employ Internet voting as a means of conducting elections. Professor Hasen offers a statement against that move by the highly respected computer scientist Dr. David Jefferson. With all due respect, I offer another view.

Voting, of course, is a very serious matter. It is an essential, albeit not sufficient, requirement for democracy. Voting is one of the principle ways by which the people of a nation are empowered to have a voice in their own destinies. The process of voting, that is, the means by which a vote is conducted, must be one that commands the trust of the voters, or the results will not be legitimate. Illegitimate governments can only cause political unhappiness, and possibly political unrest and turmoil. Hence, the right to cast a vote is meaningless unless the means by which the vote is counted is trustworthy.

Dr. Jefferson alleges that Internet voting is untrustworthy, and therefore should not be used in US elections. Yet, we live in a time when the cultural and economic momentum around the world is pushing towards ever greater use of electronic technology. This is not just for social or entertainment uses. Professor of e-business and computer science at the Carnegie Mellon University, Dr. Michael Shamos, who has both a Ph.D. in computer science and a law degree, observers that electronic information is replacing paper-based information throughout international law. [1]

Electronic signatures are regarded in law as just as valid and binding as hand written signatures on paper. In fact, he says, electronic records are now preferred as evidence in courts all over the world. If there is a contract dispute, emails may be used as evidence to show how a party understood the paper contract. In cases where a bank customer offers an ATM paper receipt as proof of a transaction, courts routinely rely instead on the bank’s electronic records as the definitive source of proof. Even claims to have a winning lottery ticket can be disproven by the lottery administrator’s electronic records of both where and when the ticket was sold, and the winning number. In all these cases, where electronic records are shown to have been well-maintained, they are given preference over paper, which is regarded as far easier to modify or fake.

Dr. Jefferson’s position is that despite all the movement towards a 21st Century e-world, the means by which we conduct our elections must stay rooted in the tried and true tradition of the 18th Century. That is, trek to the polling place, mark a piece of paper, deposit it in a box, and return home hoping your piece of paper will be counted as cast.

One fact that Dr. Jefferson over-looks is the long history of voting fraud committed within our paper-based system of voting over the past 200 years. Another fact he conveniently over-looks is that all over the world, where Internet voting trials have been conducted, there have been no proven instances of voting fraud. Allegations or suspicions may exist, but no charges of fraud, or even of significant error, have been accredited in any Internet voting trial conducted in this century. (RE the DC fiasco, see below.)[2]

The first trials of Internet voting were conducted in the year 2000. The Republican Party conducted a straw poll in Alaska. The Democratic Party held a primary vote in Arizona. And, the Department of Defense conducted a small online vote for overseas military personnel, who were enabled to vote in their state, local, and federal elections on their own PCs. Other nations were inspired by these pioneering US trials. Now, Elections Canada, the agency that manages national elections in that country, has requested the House of Commons to allow Internet voting for all its national elections. Numerous municipal elections have been conducted online in Canada, without any security or technical problems. A recent EAC report notes that the Swiss have held at least 36 online elections over the past several years. Internet voting trials have been done in India, France, Spain, Norway, New South Wales, and other countries. No instances of voter fraud have been shown. Tarvi Martens, who designed the Estonia Internet voting system, says it’s “more secure than Internet banking”

Here, then, are numerous FACTS about actual instances of successful Internet voting trials. There are many more such facts. For example, West Virginia allowed its overseas military personnel, from a few select counties, to vote online in the 2010 election. Secretary of State Natalie Tennant was so pleased with the initial trial that she asked the state legislature to expand the number of participating counties, which it promptly did.

Take a second look at Dr. Jefferson’s brief against Internet voting. See any facts in support of his claims of incurable insecurity? Does he cite even one instance of an Internet election gone wrong? How about one time when voter privacy was violated? Answer: no, not one.

Instead, he recites a litany of scary stories about what he says COULD happen. For example, “Zeus [botnets] exemplifies what could just as easily happen if online voting becomes widespread.” Or, “Anyone from a disaffected misfit individual to a national intelligence agency can remotely attack an online election …” “Anyone,” really?

Here’s a frightening thought: “Eventually someone, perhaps a partisan political operative or a foreign intelligence agency, will deploy a similar botnet to infect thousands of voters’ computers and modify their votes invisibly as they are being transmitted.”

That’s a really scary story, but has it been done in any actual Internet voting trials? Well, no – but Dr. Jefferson is certain that it COULD be done. How can he be so sure? Answer, “computer and network security experts are virtually unanimous in pointing out that online voting is an exceedingly dangerous threat to the integrity of U.S. elections.” But wait, if there is such unanimity, then why are Internet voting trials increasing world wide? Have all those systems been set up without first consulting “computer and network security experts”? Or have all those election officials gone against this unanimity, just foolishly hoping for the best? Has Natalie Tennant, her staff and advisors, and the West Virginia legislature, and its staff and advisors, all proclaimed “to heck with the experts! Let’s just do it!” Have all the responsible Swiss and Canadian officials been just as reckless?

Dr. Jefferson declares that an attacking bad guy “can probably automate that attack to allow thousands of phony votes to be recorded.” Upon what experiments, trials, or other experience does Dr. Jefferson base his probability statement? Does he have any facts, or is it just a fearful “feeling”?

The issue here is whether the United States should use electronic technology in all areas of life, but the one upon which we take the most national pride – our democracy. Moving to Internet voting is a big step, and it should not be taken without a thorough national debate. But such a debate ought to be conducted on the basis of fact and counter-fact. It should not be conducted on the basis of unsubstantiated scary stories, which conjure up such terrifying prospects that the mind shutters, and shuts itself off to all the contrary facts.

1. Dr. Shamos’s Ph.D. in computer science is from Yale University. He also teaches classes on electronic voting technology security. An elections law and patent law expert, he is licensed to practice law before the United States Supreme Court, as well as numerous federal and state courts. For 20 years, from 1980-2000, he was Pennsylvania‘s official examiner of electronic voting systems. See Shamos’s resume at, His arguments are in a paper presented to the National Institute of Standards and Technology at,

2. The DC hacking occurred in a practice run, not an actual vote. The hacking revealed that the system had been incompetently set up by amateur technicians. For more on this see

William J. Kelleher, Ph.D.
Political Scientist, author, speaker,
CEO for The Internet Voting Research and Education Fund
Author of Internet Voting Now!
Twitter: wjkno1

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Internet Voting Now! Out in Paper!

Good News!

My book, Internet Voting Now!, is available in paper on Amazon at,

In Chapters One and Five I recount the history of Internet voting in the US. I also present the history of thought about Internet voting in this country. I analyze the so-called “SERVE Security Report” for its scientific qualities. (Of course, there aren’t any.)

Reviews of the Kindle edition are at But there are no reviews yet on the paper edition – who will be the first?

Like the horseless carriage 100 years ago, Internet voting is coming to the USA. Not only is it convenient and green, but security has been proven manageable by e-commerce. Security scares are dispelled by speaking Reason to Fear. The little known Original Intentions of our Constitution’s Framers for presidential elections are explained. How poorly US practices live up to those original intentions is shown next. Readers will be surprised to see how Internet voting, rightly organized, can fulfill those original intentions better than the two-party system is currently doing. This Internet voting system can both neutralize the power of Big Money in all US elections, and empower the American voter as never before. The Conclusion provides suggestions for action.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Slippery Slope as a Scary Story

After posting the report on how satisfied Canadian voters are who have Internet voting, an interesting discussion developed on Linkedin. Some of the most famous anti-Internet voting activists expressed their concern, among other things, about the old “Slippery Slope.” Since it’s a cool day in the Halloween month of October here in LA, I gave my take on the story. Here’s how it goes:

Suppose NIST breaks free from the grip of anti-Internet voting advisors, and gives the EAC and FVAP clear standards for remote Internet voting for overseas military and other UOCAVA voters. Then elections are held. There aren’t any reports of hacking, and 99% of the voters are satisfied with the process.

Along comes Mission Creep. Nut case Secretaries of State, like Natalie Tennant, start offering Internet voting to folks inside the state!

Pretty soon, elections for federal office are held online (this can be done w/o a Constitutional Amendment). Then a Constitutional Amendment becomes ratified providing for electing the US President! Whoa! Now comes what Michael Shamos calls the “Omniscient Hacker.” He may be a teenager in Iran, or a member of the Russian Mafia.

Although there are over 3000 voting jurisdictions in the US, each with its own supposedly secure server, and using different companies, the Omniscient Hacker uses his Bot Network of 1,000,000 PCs to control the vote, and elect a Bad Guy to the White House.

Lock your doors before going to bed tonight!

NIST – National Institute of Standards and Technology
EAC – Election Assistance Commission
FVAP – Federal Voting Assistance Program
UOCAVA - Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act

Friday, September 30, 2011

Report on Internet Voting in Markham, Ontario, Canada

“Let facts be Submitted to a Candid World”

This month the Delvinia Interactive Corporation issued its Report on Internet Voting in the Town of Markham, Ontario, Canada. The following are key findings from the report.

Key findings
Specific details, evidence and additional support for each of these findings can be found in the full report.

The online voting process
• The extension of Internet voting is about convenience.
• There is overwhelming satisfaction with the Internet voting process, as 99 per cent of online voters reported being satisfied.
• In fact, the proportion of those who reported being ‘very satisfied’ rose from previous election years in 2010.
• 91 per cent of online voters chose to vote from home, indicating that is the preferred voting location when it comes to Internet ballots.
• Nearly all online voters (99 per cent) say they would be likely to vote online in future municipal elections.

Internet voting at other levels of government:
• Support for Internet ballots at other levels of government is rising.
• 99 per cent of online voters indicated that they would be likely to vote online in a provincial election if it were available.
• An equal number would be likely to vote online in a federal election if it were available.

Young people:
• The rate of use of Internet voting among young people appears to be declining with each election cycle, while it is increasing among older electors.
• Slightly more than a third of young people aged 18 to 24 say they either probably wouldn’t or definitely wouldn’t have voted had Internet voting not been an option.
• Evidence suggests online voting may be a useful way to make the electoral process easier for students away at college or university.
• The youngest and oldest online voters are most likely to cite accessibility as their main motivation for voting.
• Traditional media sources are least effective for informing young voters.
• When it comes to informing electors, young people need to be reached differently than other types of potential voters, particularly using technology and the Internet.

Older electors:
• Despite the fact that middle-aged and older electors report less frequent Internet usage than young people, they make the most use of Internet voting.
• The likelihood of voting online because of a ‘positive past experience with it’ increases with age.

What is the impact of Internet voting on voter turnout?
• There is evidence to suggest turnout can experience modest increases from the extension of online voting.
• Analysis suggests that Internet voting may be an important electoral motivator for younger electors with less committed voting records.
• About 40 per cent of young people aged 18 to 24 that self-identify as occasional or non-voters at the municipal, provincial, and federal levels of government were encouraged to vote because of the availability of online ballots in 2010.
• Of the 17,231 Markham voters who registered to vote electronically, 10,597 [nearly 2/3] used the Internet to cast their ballots.

• 78 per cent of candidates report that the option of Internet voting had a significant impact on the campaign, namely its effect on campaign strategies, mobilization tactics, and with respect to voter turnout.
• 92 per cent of candidates indicated they were either ‘completely’ or ‘mostly’ in favour of the implementation of Internet voting in the 2010 Markham municipal election.

Support for online voting among all eligible electors in Canada:
• On the whole, there is broad support for the introduction of Internet voting as an alternative voting method in elections and people report being likely to use the service.
• There is a public perception that the option of online ballots would enhance the accessibility and equality of the electoral process.

Overall, the data suggests that there is broad public support for the introduction of Internet voting in Canadian elections at all levels of government. Based on the cross-Canada survey of eligible electors, the general public perception is that the introduction of Internet ballots would make the electoral process more accessible and would enhance the equality of the process, particularly for certain groups of electors.

In the specific case of Markham, Internet voting has been proven to produce some positive effects on the electoral process, namely enhancing electoral convenience and accessibility and by that fact encouraging electoral participation. There is also some evidence to suggest that Internet voting can encourage the electoral involvement of people who previously identified as non-voters.

Finally, online voters are extremely satisfied with Internet ballots and report being likely to continue using them in subsequent elections. Taken together, this report represents a first step at shedding light on the potential for Internet voting in Canada and the impact of its deployment on election stakeholders such as electors and candidates by looking at public opinion data from the Town of Markham.

Markham’s experience with Internet voting teaches us some helpful lessons and imparts valuable insights regarding the implementation and development of online ballots in Canada. Many of these findings are also important for Internet voting programs that are being researched or becoming established abroad.

This report was prepared by Nicole Goodman, a PhD candidate at Carleton University in the Department of Political Science.

The DC fiasco was not real Internet voting. See

Monday, September 5, 2011

Norway Internet voting has high turnout - even on Sunday!

The chief of voting operations for Norway has just filed his first report to a closed group on Linkedin, "Internet voting." Any Linkedin member can join. Here’s what he said:

Christian Bull:
"Internet voting has been ongoing since August 10, and ends on friday. Going extremely well so far - we've already exceeded my own expectations in i-participation, and yesterday was our busiest day yet. Turns out people really want to vote on sunday evenings. :)"

Here's the link to his original plan for the Internet voting system (on pdf):

Transparency and Technical Measures to Establish Trust in Norwegian

Follow up report by IFES

Ben Goldsmith, IFES Election Expert, was part of a team of international observers of the Norway Internet voting trial.

In a September 27, 2011 IFES Report he writes, “Overall turnout for municipal elections across Norway was 63.8 percent, and a little lower in pilot municipalities at 62.3 percent. The use of Internet votes in pilot municipalities was high considering it was the first time that Norway had used the Internet for elections, with approximately 25 percent of voters in pilot municipalities using the Internet to cast a vote.” A complete report will come out in 2012.

(The International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) is an election system transparency and integrity watch dog organization.)

UPDATE 6-18-12
To assess and draw valuable lessons that can be applied across the globe, IFES produced three reports evaluating specific aspects of this voting pilot program at the request of the Norwegian Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development. These reports were released to the public by the Norwegian government on June 12.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Internet Voting Supporters for Obama

If you support the concept of Internet voting as an election reform for US elections, then the time has come to do something about it. Nothing speaks louder than money! By contributing to President Obama’s re-election campaign through our Supporter’s contribution page, you will do a lot to bring attention to our cause. I just contributed $20.00. If we can get 10, 50, or 100 people to match that, Obama’s campaign will notice us. Soon the word will get out to the press and media. (Your contribution goes directly to the Obama campaign, so I neither see nor know who contributed or how much was given.) Just click here.

We can start a movement that will become news!


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Why Independents Should Demand Internet Voting

What is an “Independent”? Lots of people are asking that question these days. Are Independents conservative or liberal? Are they closet Dems or closet Repubs? Are they more focused on public finance issues that on social issues? Are they moderates, or centrists? Is there such a thing as a political center in the US?

One empirical element shared by Independent identifiers is that they don’t identify with either of the two major political parties, which currently dominate US elections and government. In this sense, Independents are not only alienated from the political system, they are excluded from it. They are not just passively unrepresented in our “representative government,” they are deliberately ignored by our elected representatives. That is, of course, until those elected officials need their votes in the next two-party system election.

Thanks to modern electronic technology, this need not be.

Imagine this: You are watching candidates debate online or on TV. After each debate you log on to your state’s secure voting website, using your own PC, cell phone, or other electronic device. Your voter registration is checked, and then the voting window comes up. You enter your rating of each debater’s performance, from 0-9.

Suppose further that entry to the debates is open to everyone who wants to be considered by the voters, and that all candidates are eliminated through a series of such debates. Qualification for candidacy can be as it is now in states like California; i.e., fulfill the signature requirements, pay a filing fee, and you are on the ballot and in the debates.

In this scenario, it is the political parties that are excluded from the candidate selection and election process. Suppose there are a dozen candidates for an office. Two one hour debates can be held per evening. In three evenings all twelve can be heard, considered, and voted on by the electorate. The next week a final debate can be held between the top two, so that the candidate is supported by a majority of the voters.

Here is an election process that can be used for all local, state, and federal offices, with only minor changes in state laws. No constitutional amendment is required. Ballot access is 100% nonpartisan – an Independent’s Heaven, right here on Earth. Because no self-serving political party will control the process, the locus of power will move to where it should be in a democracy – to the center of voter preferences.

This picture can become reality by demanding that your state government, state Secretary of State, and local election officials implement an Internet voting system organized along the lines I have suggested. In consideration for their sacrifices and service, you can also demand Internet voting for your state’s overseas military personnel. (For more on that, and the opposition to it, see my post on Natalie Tennant here, and cited on Rick Hasen’s Election Law Blog, at Also see the new ‘tough love’ review of my book, Internet Voting Now! At )

William J. Kelleher, Ph.D.
Face Book:
Twitter: wjkno1
Internet Voting Explained on

Friday, August 5, 2011

Natalie E. Tennant: Internet Voting Profile in Courage

Natalie E. Tennant is a lady politician with more guts than any man in the same office in other states; that is, Secretary of State.

She takes seriously the long standing policy of the League of Women Voters in her state, West Virginia. That policy includes this, "Election laws should serve the voter with maximum convenience, simplicity, clarity, and impartiality" (at,

Tennant applies this principle by providing Internet voting for WV's overseas military voters. Doesn't giving overseas military personnel a secure and convenient means to vote sound like a common sense way to pay them back for their service? If you think so, you may be surprised to here just how uncommon this is.

With rare exception, the growth of Internet voting in the United States is being stunted by special interests. These interests first emerged in 2004.

In 2004 the Department of Defense (DoD), and its sub-agency the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP), had an Internet voting system all set up for overseas voters to use in the up coming state and federal elections. The system was ready to handle 100,000 voters, from the half dozen states that volunteered for the trial. Using their own PC, overseas voters could log on to a secure website, and after their registration is checked, vote online. DoD and FVAP officials were so confident that their system was able to mitigate all security threats that they invited 10 outside experts to come and inspect the system, known as the Secure Electronic Registration and Voting Experiment, or SERVE. At least four of the 10 were known anti-Internet voting computer scientists.

FVAP personnel took the whole team on the first of several planned visits. After only the second visit, the four got together in private and wrote a scathing criticism full of speculative “coulds” and “possibles,” but short on facts and science. The entire election, they alleged, among other things, could be controlled by some undetectable hacker. (They forgot to mention that the system had an intrusion detection capability.) Then they went to the New York Times with their “report,” without any peer review or opportunity for FVAP to attach a response.

The Times, and other major newspapers, played up the story with so much sensation (a hacker could elect the president!) that Undersecretary of Defense, Paul Wolfowitz, felt compelled to order a halt to the program. Thereafter, this report, its authors, and a small cadre of well-funded activists have led the way in discouraging FVAP, or any state government, from further attempts at Internet voting trials. They now have a full time staff that follows the legislative process in Congress and each of the 50 states. Whenever they see an Internet voting bill introduced into a committee, they go into action to stop it. They buttonhole committee members, pull out their well-worn report, spout off all the “coulds” and “possibles,” without any science to back up their claims, and then remind the elected officials of how they killed SERVE in 2004, using their access to the New York Times and other newspapers.

Most elected officials buckle under this pressure. They cannot afford the costs of publicity that would be required to fight the activists in the media. As they know well, the best way to get reelected is to avoid controversy, and push off the Internet voting proposals “for further study.” As a result, in 2010 over 30 states electronically sent blank ballots to their voters who were in the military and overseas, but they avoided using systems based on the SERVE model. These states required that voted ballots be returned by fax, email, or snail mail – anything but real Internet voting on an official website. Indeed, even now, in 2011, FVAP is offering states up to $16M for electronic ballot delivery systems; but not for systems based on the SERVE model. To get financial aid, the systems must use ballots returned by fax, email, or snail mail.

Despite the threats of anti-Internet voting activists, in 2010 West Virgina enacted a trial of true Internet voting for its overseas members of the military, who were eligible to vote in one of the several volunteer counties. As with SERVE, overseas West Virginians in the military could use their own PC to log on to the state’s secure website, and after their registration is confirmed, cast their vote online. The program was supported in the legislative process, developed, and implemented by WV Secretary of State, Natalie E. Tennant.

Just as in the military, a Secretary of State, or any public official, deserves praise whenever they show courage under fire. Tennant showed this courage when she went ahead with her Internet voting trial for overseas military voters. As she stated on the WV SOS website,

“The members of our military are putting their lives on the line every day … I thought it was extremely important to make sure they had secure access to an online ballot. We had to make sure their voice was heard.”

The system was first used in the state’s primaries. Voter response was quite positive. Tennant reported that of all the satisfaction survey respondents, “we received no negative feedback of the pilot program.”

While other methods of absentee voting saw return rates of about 40 percent, the Internet voting ballot return rate was over twice that. Tennant was so impressed that, in her report to the state legislature, she asked them to allow additional counties to participate in the 2010 General Election, which they did.

Tennant made her final report to the WV legislature on 1/19/2011. This report included the statistics on the use of Internet voting in the general election. For example, in the counties where Internet voting was offered, of all the voters who requested that their absentee ballots be delivered electronically, 76% voted on the secure website. In the counties using standard mail as the absentee ballot transmission method, 58% of the requested ballots were returned. Clearly, there was a higher rate of participation with Internet voting.

Most of the voters who used Internet voting in the primary also used it in the general election, indicating a high degree of satisfaction. Indeed, of those who took the satisfaction survey, 100% rated the system’s ease of use as “simple” or “somewhat simple.”

Tennant reported that to date, “no significant deficiencies or concerns have been identified with the West Virginia online voting pilot.” Unfortunately, because of all the media attention to the fiasco in Washington DC’s Internet voting trial (which was set up by Oliver and Hardy, and then hacked by yet another comedian), Tennant did not recommend on her own authority that Internet voting should be used in all of West Virginia’s counties. She suggested instead that a study group be convened to decide the matter.

Tennant is in the lead on other election reforms. For example, she is overseeing WV’s experiment with the public financing of campaigns for election to some state court judgeships.

Tennant made a try for the West Virginia governorship in the first half of 2011, but lost in the Democratic primary; perhaps her courage under fire was not given sufficient profile.


Tennant advocates for more Internet voting in the US at, “Making the Case for Online Voting.” 

Suggested Readings
On the DC fiasco:

On the Security of WV’s Internet Voting System:
FAQ, at

Tennant addresses the technical aspects of how the state handled security issues in two papers.
1. Tennant’s NIST Position paper of June 9, 2010 (Written after the primary vote, and before the general election; with her request for an extension of the program to other counties)

2. West Virginia's SOS report on the Online Voting Pilot Project 1/19/2011

Also see:
Pew Center Reports

Internet voting for military, overseas voters debuts in West Virginia
Clerks and secretary of state pleased with first use

Pew Report on Military Voting Reform

William J. Kelleher, Ph.D.
Twitter: wjkno1
You Tube:

Saturday, April 16, 2011

INTERNET VOTING NOW! The Kindle Edition Available

My New Book is Now on Kindle - Internet Voting Now! Here’s How. Here’s Why - So We can Kiss Citizens United Goodbye!

Like the horseless carriage 100 years ago, Internet voting is coming to the USA. Not only is it convenient and green, but security has been proven manageable by e-commerce. Security scares are discussed, and dispelled by speaking Reason to Fear. Most importantly, rightly organized, Internet voting can neutralize the power of Big Money in all US elections. Now is the time for progressives to plan on how to turn this massive change in the process of voting to our advantage. This book shows precisely how that can be done.

William J. Kelleher, Ph.D.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Internet voting is coming to the USA!

Internet voting is coming to the USA! How do I know that?

Successful trials were conducted in the US in 2000, 2004, and 2008. Congress encouraged online voting in the 2009 MOVE ACT (Military and Overseas Voters Empowerment Act). In the November 2010 elections, 33 states gave some form of Internet voting a try so that their overseas voters, especially those in the military, could vote conveniently. There have been no reports of either technical or security problems. Indeed, West Virginia’s secretary of state, Natalie Tennant, tried a small experiment with Internet voting on the state’s secure website, and promptly requested that the state legislature allocate funds to expand the practice. Trials of Internet voting within states are likely to begin soon. Local elections officials understand that voting via the Net is much cheaper to administer than polling place voting. Of course, no voting technology is greener than paperless Internet voting.

The only failed Internet voting trial in the US was in Washington D.C. in October of 2010. No actual vote was held, but when the public was invited to test the system it was hacked. That experience just proved how miserably inept were the amateur programmers
who set up the system. Over the last 10 years, several nations in Europe, and provinces in Canada, have been testing Internet voting systems with success. The Russian Duma recently approved plans to try Internet voting for voters in remote locations, such as Siberia.

Convenience for voters, and savings in the costs of election administration, are too tempting to resist. The companies that have successfully built Internet voting systems have been in every state capital pitching their products to legislators and elections officials. This change is inevitable.

Now is the time for progressives to plan, not on how to resist the change, but on how to turn it to our advantage. If we do nothing, or if we protest and fail, Internet voting will emerge as the way Americans vote, and our political system will be no better for it. But if we look ahead, and plan well, we can turn Internet voting into a progressive reform of historic proportions.

Do you think that Big Money has UNFAIR INFLUENCE in US elections and in our legislative process? Internet voting, rightly organized, can neutralize all their power.

Search this site for detailed answers. See, for example,
Public Enemy Number One

William J. Kelleher, Ph.D.