Bradley Tusk, a wealthy political operative who managed former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s reelection campaign, is pushing cities and states to allow citizens to vote via mobile devices.
The move comes at a dangerous time as experts note that mobile phones are far from secure, and that voting by phone could present a host of problems that would be difficult if not impossible to resolve. However, serious problems that would affect the outcome of important elections aren’t deterring Mr. Tusk and his ilk from pushing their Voatz, their new voting app, to local government officials.
Tusk is spending up to $50 million to pay for pilot mobile voting schemes in the hope that the concept of voting by phone will become popular. His efforts have already convinced West Virginia state officials and Denver, Colorado officials to allow phone voting in certain instances.
Naturally, Tusk is pitching his efforts as being in the best interest of the United States of America as a whole, stating that voting by app would increase voter turnout by encouraging people who don’t want to stand in line at a voting booth. The truth is that he may have a point; many people are accustomed to fast, easy transactions, and would not have a problem with voting if doing so only took a minute or two. However, the ramifications of allowing hundreds of millions of people in the country to vote by phone for each and every election are too serious to ignore.
Those who are warning against Tusk’s new pilot scheme aren’t “right-wing activists” who are simply unwilling to embrace new technological advances. Josh Benaloh, a senior cryptographer at Microsoft, has made it clear that anyone who claims to have secure voting technology is lying. David Dill, a professor emeritus in computer science at Stanford, recently told news outlets that voting by phone would be problematic. He also expressed alarm that local officials are considering the technology without consulting experts who can accurately evaluate phone-voting security. The Committee of the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine has officially stated that voting by phone technology should not be considered feasible for the foreseeable future.
Recent statistics show that experts have good reason to be worried about the idea of voting by phone. Some android phone devices from lesser-known brand names have had malware installed even before consumers purchased them. The U.S. cellular exchange has a vulnerability that makes it possible for cybercriminals to listen to phone calls, read texts, and see a user’s location. Mobile malware is becoming increasingly common, and a growing number of groups are using it to render devices inoperable.
It isn’t hard to see how these problems could completely change the result of an election. For instance, GOP supporters could wake up and find that their mobile devices simply don’t work on election day, making it impossible for them to vote for the candidates they support. Malware could be used to change a person’s vote, and there would be no paper trail to prove that a person voted (or didn’t vote) for a particular candidate. It is telling that the company that created the Voatz voting app is refusing to show experts its code so that the app can be tested for vulnerabilities before it is used.
The idea of voting by phone is certainly a convenient one, and activists are using this fact to win over unsuspecting city and state officials. However, the truth of the matter is that voting by phone would destroy the voting process rather than help it. There would be no way to verify that a person who cast a particular vote is actually allowed to vote in the first place. There would be no way to verify the results of a contested election. Given these facts, it is hard not to suspect that a Democratic activist who is spending millions of dollars of his own money to this actually has an ulterior motive.
~ Liberty Planet