New Jersey permits email voting for Sandy-displaced residents

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Storm-displaced voters in New Jersey will be able to cast ballots in the Nov. 6 election via email or fax, provided they waive their right to ballot secrecy, N.J. Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno (R) declared in a Nov. 3 directive (.pdf).

New Jersey was hit hard by Hurricane Sandy; a quarter (.pdf) of power customers there continued to be without electricity as of the afternoon of Nov. 4. Lowering temperatures have sent residents of even undamaged houses into shelters.

The directive signed by Guadagno--who is also the state chief election official--says that any voter displaced from their primary residence because of the storm can participate in the election as if they were an "overseas voter."

Voters must file an application to their county clerk and sign a secrecy waiver. The directive doesn't sit well with technology experts, however, who note that Internet communications are susceptible to interception.

Generally the federal government agrees, with the National of Institute of Standards and Technology's conclusion earlier this year that Internet voting  is not yet feasible.

In a Nov. 4 blog post cybersecurity researcher Matt Blaze criticized the New Jersey government's decision as well intentioned but likely to open new doors to contesting election outcomes. Email, he notes, has no intrinsic protection against modification, forgery, copying or deletion when in transit,

"What assurance does a voter have that an emailed ballot will be counted and that it has not been tampered with along the way?" he states.

Computers used to send or receive ballots could contain malware and alter or delete ballots sent from them--a danger especially for public, shared computers, Blaze adds. Even in the absence of malware, hackers could launch a denial of service attack to overwhelm New Jersey county clerks from receiving ballots, he added. Canadian members of the New Democratic Party in March found their leadership election marred by such an attack.

For more:
- download the directive (.pdf)
- go to the New Jersey Division of Elections webpage

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