Friday, March 8, 2013

Has NIST Lied about Internet Voting Insecurity?

Article 1, section 8, of the US Constitution enumerates the specific powers of Congress.
Among these are: “The Congress shall have power … To regulate Commerce … To coin money … and fix the standard of weights and measures.” The Framers had learned from unhappy experiences under the Articles of Confederation that without uniform standards for money, the new nation’s economy had little chance of thriving. They had also learned that without uniform “weights and measures,” the growth of science and technology, industry, and commerce would be crippled by chaos.

Out of its continuing efforts to exercise these powers responsibly, in 1988 Congress created the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), which is currently a non-regulatory agency within the Department of Commerce.

NIST has such a vital role in the progress of science that it can aptly be understood as the Voice of Science in the USA.

When Congress established the Election Assistance Commission (EAC), in 2002, in a display of foresight, it required NIST to provide the EAC technical support on the research and development of, among other things, “remote access voting, including voting through the Internet.”

Yes, Congress is thinking about Internet voting for all US elections!

So, what did NIST do in response to its mandate from Congress? NIST put its name on a copy of the old 2004 SERVE Security Report by Avi Rubin, David Jefferson, David Wagner, and Barbara Simons.

That Report is where all the scary stories about supposed Internet voting insecurity got started. Like, “a teenage hacker in Iran could change all the votes in a presidential election!”

Great scary story, but where’s the science?  Where’s the facts?

Internet voting has been tried in public elections nearly 100 times around the world w/o any security problems. (The 2010 DC hack occurred because it wasn’t built by pros, see DC Hack Fiasco and DC Hack Conspiracy ) Shamefully, NIST has done NO scientific research, but only reproduced a bunch of scary stories, and presented that to Congress.

Common Cause – that saintly source of democratic ideals – has also helped to promote scary stories about Internet voting w/o any facts or science. (See Common Cause )

So now there is a careful study of the BAD SCIENCE that has the whole country shaking in its boots whenever somebody says “I hate standing in lines! Why can’t we have voting online?”

The paper is being presented at a panel at the Western Political Science Association this month. Its ready for the most critical scrutiny a scholar can give it. It shows that the anti-Internet voting extremists have NO intellectual foundation for crying “wolf!”

Its time for an intelligent, informed, Reason-based debate on Internet voting!
Download my paper, in pdf form, for free at

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

Author of Internet Voting Now!