Disruptions: Casting a Ballot by Smartphone

Last Tuesday, millions of Americans stood in long lines to cast their votes.

While they waited, sometimes for several hours, many used their smartphones to pass the time.

Some read articles about the election. Others updated their Twitter or Instagram feeds with pictures of the lines at the polls. And some took care of more private tasks, like sharing health information with their doctors, reading and editing confidential work documents, or paying bills and transferring money using banking applications.

Once in the voting booth, they slipped their phones into their pockets and purses and, in many cases, picked up a pen and a piece of paper to cast their ballot.

So at a time when we can see video shot by a robot on Mars, when there are cars that can drive themselves, and when we can deposit checks on our smartphones without going to a bank, why do most people still have to go to a polling place to vote?

That’s because, security experts say, letting people vote through their phones or computers could have disastrous consequences.

“I think it’s a terrible idea,” said Barbara Simons, a former I.B.M. researcher and co-author of the book “Broken Ballots: Will Your Vote Count?”

Ms. Simons then ran through a list of calamitous events that could occur if we voted by Internet. Viruses could be used to take over voters’ phones; rogue countries like Iran could commandeer computers and change results without our knowledge; government insiders could write software that decides who wins; denial-of-service attacks could take down the Internet on Election Day.

“It’s a national security issue,” Ms. Simons said. “We really don’t want our enemies to be able to determine our government for us — or even our friends for that matter.”

Of course, many of those concerns make sense. None of us want some evil autocrat picking the next president.

But other countries allow citizens to vote via the Internet, or are experimenting with the idea. In 2005, Estonia started testing an online voting system and has since registered more than a million voters who now cast their ballots online. Italy plans to test an online voting system this year.

Not the United States, the land of the free and the home of the smartphone.

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via The New York Times –  NICK BILTON
 

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