RealTime IT News

States Offer Overseas E-mail Ballots

North Dakota became the second state in as many weeks to announce that its registered voters living abroad could use an e-mail service provided by the DoD's Federal Voting Assistance Plan (FVAP) to cast their ballots.

Like many states, North Dakota law allows for the faxing of ballots, but prohibits e-mail voting. Under the new initiative, registered voters living abroad may request a ballot from local North Dakota election officials who will, in turn, fax the absentee ballot to FVAP. From there, FVAP will convert the ballot into a .PDF attachment in an e-mail.

The voter will print out the material, complete the ballot and required forms and then return the ballot either by mail or through a reverse of the earlier process if they have all the necessary technology at their disposal.

North Dakota Secretary of State Al Jaeger told internetnews.com the state was focused on the fact that in many of the world's hotspots, mail is slow and, for security purposes, fax machines are few.

"North Dakota has quite a few of our national guard in the Middle East, where the military does not have a lot of fax machines on site," Jaeger said. "We were concerned about the ability of our people to vote."

Jaeger said it was his understanding the system would be secure and "no one will see the ballot in route."

Last week, Missouri outlined a similar plan. Terri Durdaller, spokeswoman for Matt Blunt, Missouri secretary of state, said it came to the state's attention that getting ballots to and from places like Afghanistan might be a problem. Much like North Dakota, Missourians stationed or living overseas will be able to complete their ballots and scan and e-mail the results to FVAP, she said.

"The information is going to be transferred over secure lines and faxed directly to the appropriate Missouri local election jurisdiction," Durdaller said. "It is merely an option and not mandated by law."

Neither the Pentagon nor the FVAP were immediately available for comment.

Many security experts during the last few years have raised security concerns about online voting, saying the Internet is fundamentally flawed and open to hacks and Denial of Service attacks.

FVAP made the news earlier this year when it discontinued the Secure Electronic Registration and Voting Experiment (SERVE), an Accenture program that aimed to provide Internet voting for overseas military personnel. After security reviews of the $22 million SERVE program, the Pentagon decided it was unable to ensure the legitimacy of online votes.