VoteAllegheny, a non-partisan election integrity organization, is very concerned about Pennsylvania State Senate Bill 1052, which has passed through the State Government Committee and is set to be discussed in the Appropriations Committee. The appropriation for an impossible task could be huge.
SB 1052 orders up voting by Internet for our military and overseas personnel. As much as caring about our military and overseas personnel is commendable, SB 1052 is not a good thing for them. It is not good for anyone. According to IT experts, we do not yet know how to do online voting securely, and likely will not achieve that ability within the next several years. Even fax transmission cannot be made secure. (Yes, email, and sometimes fax, goes through the Internet.)
Having legislation demand “a secure online system” will not make it happen. It is not just one system, and it simply cannot be done. (If we pass a bill for the Secretary to make pink horses fly over all our county courthouses, what would he do?) Since the bill is now in the Appropriations Committee, we note that the cost of doing something impossible can be astronomical.
When a previous bill, SB 976 (nearly exactly the same), was introduced in 2013 by Senator Matt Smith, we connected with many senators and their staffs personally, speaking strongly against it. We are dismayed that some of those same senators are now cosponsors of this bill.
Ron Bandes, VoteAllegheny’s President, is professionally a Network Security Analyst with a premier computer and network security organization. He works with election-integrity experts around the country. We have several other computer experts active in our organization. Statewide, VotePA is similarly strongly opposed to this bill.
There are many reasons to stop this bill now. What has changed since 2013? Hacking is now more prominent. And the Federal Voting Assistance Program in the Department of Defense opposes Internet voting, as does NIST (the National Institute of Standards & Technology).
When overseas personnel connect online in a foreign country
– and we have hundreds and hundreds of bases and installations around the world
– they are using either a private company’s internet or that of the country in
which they are stationed. We cannot guarantee
the security of that Internet provider. We cannot guarantee the security of the
computers they are using. We cannot
guarantee the interface they are using, and we absolutely cannot guarantee that
every county in
Would a foreign country want to intercept
votes flowing through their Internet and re-cast them and possibly duplicate
them over and over? Would a foreign
country enjoy the access to our county election computers to do what happened
Could domestic persons or groups breach the
system as they did when
The answers, of course, are yes. This would be no favor to the military and overseas personnel.
In an era when half the prime-time network tv shows have had plot lines involving cyber crimes (including CSI Cyber, and including voting system breaches on several programs), at this time when credit card systems are frequently hacked, when Volkswagens have rigged computers, this issue is definitely in the public’s eye.
We in VoteAllegheny take seriously both our mission and our responsibility – to monitor the integrity of our elections, to protect citizens from cyber crime in voting, and to inform our elected and appointed officials. More information is available on our site, www.VoteAllegheny.org. We offer any information our senators need in order to make educated decisions in these matters.
Supporting SB 1052 is not a wise choice. There was some mention of an amendment planned by one senator to “provide for security,” but of course we know that cannot be done.
This is of vital importance. We will be glad to explain, happy to educate. Again, the cost of doing something impossible can be astronomical. Please urge our state senators: do not pass SB 1052.
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