Maryland’s online absentee voting measure stalls amid fears of voter fraud

Chris Bing Contributor
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The Maryland State Board of Elections Thursday failed to approve a new system that would allow voters to download and fill out a ballot online, before sending the ballot in by mail.

The five members on the state board declined to vote on the measure after it was clear it lacked the required four votes, the Baltimore Sun reports.

Washington and Oregon have pushed for similar legislation, but in both previous cases, popular public dissent effectively stopped the implementation of a new system, amid concerns of legitimacy and security.

The electronic delivery of absentee ballots would be first introduced in the upcoming June 24 gubernatorial primary election.

Various voter advocate organizations, watchdog groups and Internet security experts have warned in recent months that poor authentication methods, as well as inconsistent online requirements, would make the system vulnerable to voter fraud.

Election Integrity Maryland, one of the Mid-Atlantic’s leading election integrity organizations, has called for an immediate re-evaluation of Maryland’s online voting system, saying that the state must “preserve honest elections.”

State law describes the new online ballot marking tool as “a system that allows a voter to access a blank ballot through the Internet.”

David Jefferson, a computer scientist from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, compiled a report with a group of his colleagues for the Maryland board, stating, “We have identified severe security vulnerabilities in Maryland’s online voter registration system.”

“Given the grave potential for harm, we urge the State of Maryland to take immediate defensive steps to safeguard the online voter registration system or else shut down the system,” he continued.

That statement was reiterated in a follow-up letter last February, according to the Baltimore Sun.

“I feel very strongly that there is much more opposition to online voting than there are citizens in favor of it,” the president of Election Integrity Maryland, Cathy Kelleher, told The Daily Caller. “This is a sensitive issue for many people in Maryland, especially coming off the recent failure of Maryland’s attempt to have an efficient health-care website and system. It has been an abysmal failure.”

Deputy Election Administrator Nikki Charlson has admitted that the current security measures for the front end of the system, where potential voter fraud is most likely to occur, are “imperfect.”

“We might not be able to prevent someone who has illegally obtained information [from entering the system], but what we can try to do is detect it on the back end, and we have many things in place that can do that.”

Charles Iheagwara, the managing director of Largo-based Unatek Inc., who conducted the online vulnerability and infiltration test for the State Board, declined to comment and cited a confidentiality agreement with the state when asked to provide details of the actual outcome of the tests, according to the MarylandReporter.

“We just don’t feel that Maryland is ready to implement something like this, and we are encouraging them to reevaluate it and rethink it. There are just too many problems that have been identified in Maryland’s system, and also in the plans in it in themselves,” Kelleher said in an interview with The Daily Caller. “Independents, Republicans, Democrats, we all have a vested interest in an election that is free of any complications caused by voter fraud. Rejecting this bill speaks to the needs of everyone in Maryland.”

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