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16 Comments
Nancy Smith

Look Around: You Really Think Online Voter Registration Is Safe?

October 3, 2017 - 6:00am

Call me too ignorant, too cynical or too old, but online voter registration, which went into effect in Florida Oct. 1, feels like Big Trouble.

Sure as Monday turned to Tuesday, it won't be long before a few or even several supervisors of election cry foul when some shadowy cyber mischiefmaker with enough personal data impersonates voters and changes registration records.

I'm not comforted that 35 states and the District of Columbia made Florida look late to the online voter registration party. 

Nor am I comforted by the secretary of state. Ken Detzner's good-news press release is full of assurances. RegisterToVoteFlorida.gov, the website to sign up, "has multiple safeguards in place to verify and protect a person's identity and personal information," he says, "including a state-of-the-art firewall, data encryption, captcha boxes, session time-out after inactivity and the use of multi-screens. ..."

I'm sorry, Mr. Secretary, but don't you think it's a little arrogant to boast Florida has established foolproof online voter registration -- that hackers couldn't disenfranchise Floridians by exploiting vulnerabilities in our system? How soon we forget Russia.

Isn't the voter-registration war between political parties explosive enough without putting voter rolls in the hands of faceless IT homeboys with more tech savvy than our supervisors of election?

Ask yourself why the identity theft industry makes billions of dollars annually to protect us from clever sods who can disenfranchise us -- steal our lives in half a dozen keystrokes -- yet the people at the Division of Elections thought of everything to keep the voter rolls safe from cyber fraud. 

And, by the way, I know kids in the fourth grade who can foil captcha boxes. (Doesn't everybody?)

I even know a nerdy high school kid from Connecticut who told me he might "try to get into" Connecticut's elections site just to show he could.

Have a look at the study published last month in the journal Technology Science. It says hackers could buy -- either from commercial data brokers or more cheaply from cybercriminals -- all the personal data they need about millions of Americans to fraudulently alter voter registration records online. Calling it “voter identity theft,” journal Editor-in-Chief Latanya Sweeney, who is also a Harvard professor, and co-authors Ji Su Yoo and Jinyan Zang say a broad scale attack on several states could be carried out with data costing just a few thousand dollars.

“A few lines of Python code are able to input and harvest information online,” said Yoo. “Even if there are captchas on the website that are meant to prevent automation, we describe how an attacker could bypass certain types.”

Officials have said supervisors of elections, including Florida's, have safeguards in place to prevent that -- in fact, to prevent everything this study asserts. They claim they all have back office processes and election practices that could detect or limit a cyber attack.

Judd Choate, president of the National Association of State Elections Directors, said “(Yoo) doesn’t understand the amount of work we do to keep these systems secure.”

And Detzner's press release tells Floridians not to worry, because "the website requires information that only the person seeking to register or change an existing registration should know, such as the issued date of their Florida driver license or state ID card, their Florida driver license or state ID card number and the last four digits of their Social Security Number. ..."

Why don't I feel better? I think about the we've-got-you-covered assurances I keep reading, then I remember some of South Florida's more accident-prone supervisors of election and ... I know exactly why I don't feel better.

I know I'm in the minority on this one, same as I am when I express my abhorrence for early voting. Online voter registration will be wildly popular -- after all, it's easy. Heaven forbid citizenship should inconvenience any American.

"We're really excited for online voter registration," a spokesperson for Hillsborough's Supervisor of Elections Office told WFTS-TV in Tampa. "We think it's going to be really convenient for voters. We have a lot of young people who don't know what a printer is much less where to find one, much less find a stamp if they have to put it in an envelope and mail it to us." 

Incredible.

Reach Nancy Smith at nsmith@sunshinestatenews.com or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmith

Comments

We don't need to make voting easier. It's already too easy. While we don't need to make it hard, it would be nice if we made it sane. Online is not sane. Neither is motor voter. Florida has made it a real pain in the ass to renew your drivers license. Unintended consequences that they never thought about. Sounded good, lets go with it. What they did not do anything about is the 500,000 illegal Mexicans roaming around driving with no license and no insurance. After they do something about that, lets talk.

Can't we all just dip our fingers?

Of course, we could just NUKE OURSELVES and skip the "Voting"? Such absurdity, in light of the fact that we have ALREADY Lost Control over who Voted in our LAST Election. Agreed? No? Oh, we should TRUST the Internet, because it's so safe - just ask EQUIFAX how they handled our Credit Information so well! Internet Voter Registration = DEEP STATE WON!

How about suspending the implementation of online voting until we get the report from VP Mike Pence re: the research being done on suspected voting fraud across the country and how it was carried out? Can't we wait a bit? We've already had evidence of certain community political activists "helping" people fill out and sign mail-in ballots that were questionable. Such activity will be even harder to detect once political activists get involved in "helping" people register and vote online. Also, follow the Equifax scandal. That hack breach of the company's records exposed personal information to the bad guys on millions of unsuspecting citizens. There simply is no technology available right now that can guarantee that our country's most sacred right to vote won't be compromised. I've found that using the mail in ballot method of voting is very easy to use. AND, there is an actual person who receives the ballot at the other end. I know a computer is used to tally votes but at least a human is sitting behind the table at the voting polls and the State's Election Supervisor's office is eyeballing in person and mail in ballots. Let's stick with in person and mail-in voting until we can feel comfortable with allowing a computer to do all the work for us.

Mike Pence??? Oh, now I feel better. (NOT)

This isn’t voting online, this is registering online. Our voter database is already online and anyone can make last name, address and party affiliation changes. That we can access our own info online itself is at risk of hacking and I’m all for making it easier for people to register.

It is no different than anything else. All voter records are maintained on an electronic database anyway. This is nothing new, so safety will continue to be an issue no matter what you do. As long as there are criminals, and there are plenty of them, especially in politics, there will be hackers trying to steal something...

"Online Voter Registration" is nothing more than "Pie in the sky", just like "Hillary''s so easily corrupted email fiasco"; The "government" will make us ALL "rue the day" that they foisted this upon us... [If banks and credit agencies, as well as large corporate entities, are hacked every day (one after another),.. What hope can there be for THIS voter registration scam? ] Very often, what "may seem like a good idea" is actually a "sleeper bug" placed in an age-old system that has always worked, except when dishonest, corruptable, weak people "sell it out" for money, imagined power, sexual favors, or a variety of "threats"... In todays erase of political & media dishonesty, "ONLINE ANYTHING" is a disaster just waiting to happen... and "online voter registration" will be a case of "opening Pandora''s Box" and releasing ALL the evils of voter corruption in one fell swoop... Be ready to be compromised (like the ballot system has never been before).

Just think how many millions of people do their banking and other personal business on line without any problem. It seems to me that we have a lot of safe guards in place to make it safe and it should just be looked at as another tool to encourage more people to vote. If it doesn"t work, flip the switch and take it down.....that simple.

Online registration is certainly safer than the results of gerrymandering and the various "new and improved" methods to eliminate the illusion of "voter fraud" that got us where we are now.

Anything we can legally and responsibly do to EXPAND voter participation should be tried. I've voted early is Florida and it was GREAT. When living in another state, I've registered on-line in another state. It was GREAT. Progress requires you keep moving forward while making every effort to put in appropriate safeguards. The fear in some quarters of virtually non-existent voter fraud masks a real desire to suppress citizen participation in government. Full citizen participation in our democracy might require candidates and parties to develop policies that benefited the citizens. What a novel idea.

Full citizen participation in our democracy might require higher participation among registered voters, too. See Gregory Wallace's column at CNN, "Voter turnout at 20-year low in 2016"

Just because you're facing forward doesn't mean you're moving forward.

Read "Barbara's" comment again Folks: "When living in one State, I've registered on-line in another State"... Does anyone want to "cover the bet" that she has never voted in BOTH LOCATIONS??? I don't blame you, I wouldn't either. But in my "old life" I would have opened an investigation into the matter.

I believe that voter fraud must be curtailed and everyone should register in person, be photographed and provide a United States birth certificate or naturalization papers or a U. S. Passport to register. If the credentials are in order, a photo shall be taken. No photo ID required. Give them your name and when your photo pops up on the screen, you may vote. If you photo doesn't match your face, you will be arrested. No fraud. No Illegals voting. No multiple voting by anyone. Our Democracy will be secure. No mail in vote requests will be honored with out a face on file.

Dear Nancy, How about some facts please instead of opinion?

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