Ballot box blues continue

The introduction of online technology into the registration and ballot request processes hasn't solved problems of missing ballots and missed deadlines.

Although local election officials reported increased interest from overseas and military voters for the 2008 elections, 22 percent of those who requested ballots did not receive them, and another 40 percent received ballots too late to be sure they could be returned in time to be counted, a survey said.

Those are among the findings of a post-election survey of more than 24,000 overseas and military voters conducted by the Overseas Vote Foundation.

Measuring trends in overseas voting is difficult because long-term information is lacking or sketchy, but constancy is one trend that stands out, said Toby Moore, project director at RTI International who is analyzing the data.

“The problems that have been identified are persisting despite efforts to address them,” Moore said today at a news conference at which the survey results were released.

This is despite the use of online technology in the last election cycle to provide information and other resources to military voters who are away from home and civilians who live outside the country. About 4.75 million voters used three Overseas Vote Foundation Web sites established to help voters through the maze of state requirements for registration and absentee ballot requests.

State programs to allow the use of e-mail messages and faxes to request absentee ballots in the past election did not seem to help much. Nearly 24 percent of respondents who e-mailed requests did not receive a ballot, and 21 percent of those who faxed requests did not receive one.

“We have just scratched the surface” in helping overseas voters take part in elections, said Alex Yasinsac, dean of the School of Computer and Information Sciences at the University of South Alabama.

Overseas civilians and military personnel and their families are entitled to vote in U.S. elections under the Uniformed Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA), but these voters often have been disenfranchised because of delays in receiving and casting absentee ballots by traditional mail for local and federal elections. A recurring theme in voter problems was the length of time it takes for paper documents to pass between voters and election officials by traditional mail.

However, voters also shared blame, said OVF president Susan Dzieduszycka-Suinat. “They don’t read.” Instructions from many states that faxed or e-mailed registration forms or absentee ballot requests be followed up with signed copies sent by mail often were ignored by voters. Because of this, complicated procedures for absentee voting tend to fail.

A simple way to reduce the problem of mailing time would be to allow electronic delivery of blank ballots to voters. “There is no risk” in this, Dzieduszycka-Suinat said, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) agrees.

Ballots could be distributed securely by telephone, fax, e-mail and Web-based services using existing technology and safeguards, NIST concluded in a study, titled “A Threat Analysis of UOCAVA Voting Systems,” released last year.

“Voter registration and requests for a blank ballot by the UOCAVA voter can be reliably facilitated and expedited by the use of any of the electronic transmission options,” the study says. “The associated threats can be mitigated through the use of procedural and technical security controls and do not pose significant risks to the integrity of elections.”

However, electronically casting a ballot remains a challenge that current systems probably are not up to handling securely.

“The return of voted ballots poses threats that are more serious and challenging than the threats to delivery of blank ballots and registration and ballot request,” the report says. “In particular, election officials must be able to ascertain that an electronically-returned voted ballot has come from a registered voter and that it has not been changed in transit. Because of this and other security-related issues, the threats to the return of voted ballots by e-mail and web are difficult to overcome.”

A number of federal Web-based voting pilot programs and experiments have been tried but shelved without significant success. A number of local initiatives, such as the Okaloosa (Fla.) Distance Balloting Project, experimented on a small scale with online voting technology in the 2008 election.

Yasinsac did not advocate any particular technology, but said that a number of cryptographic schemes are being developed to allow secure online voting.

“The tools are there,” he said. “The states need the legislation to make it happen.”

Electronic voting technology has faced growing resistance in recent years because of concerns about the security of systems being used in many precincts. “It’s a flash point,” Yasinsac said. “It’s an emotional issue.” But when compared to the limitations of current absentee voting processes, electronic voting might not be a bad deal. “Voting by mail is subject to denial of service attacks,” he said.

The foundation recommended pilot programs to help develop and work the bugs out of online and other electronic voting technology, as well as using lessons learned in three election cycles to update UOCAVA. It also recommended harmonizing state laws on overseas voting to make it easier for voters to register and to request and receive absentee ballots. A Uniform Law Commission has been established by the National Defense Committee to draft model legislation for this effort.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.