April 16, 2014

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Tim Lee Reporting on NJ Email-Assisted Voting

Earlier this week, Professor Andrew Appel posted that “NJ Lt. Governor invites voters to submit invalid ballots“. Andrew has been offering updates at the bottom of his post since then. Professor Ed Felten also summarized the state of “New Jersey Voting in the Aftermath of Hurricane Sandy,” concluding that, “I would strongly oppose any long-term move toward online voting, but I can see the point of allowing limited email+hardcopy voting for displaced voters under these very unusual circumstances.”

This morning, Tim Lee (an alumnus of of CITP) wrote on Ars Technica that:

…anecdotal evidence is starting to trickle in that the system isn’t working as well as organizers had hoped. One address used to request ballots was not even accepting e-mail late Tuesday morning. And in another county, an election official responded to problems with the county e-mail system by inviting voters to send ballot requests to his personal Hotmail address.

Tim concludes that:

Desperate times call for desperate measures, and some degree of improvisation was probably inevitable in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. But trying to create an e-mail-based voting system from scratch in under a week was probably not a good idea.

This may be true, although it doesn’t seem to be the case that the system put into place in New Jersey was created entirely from scratch. As Ed noted, “Voters displaced from their homes by the storm will be allowed to vote using the same mechanisms as overseas and military voters.”

Whatever the facts on the ground, it is clear that–as the engineers say–the situation is non-optimal. It will be interesting to see how it plays out.

Update: New Jersey has extended the submission deadline to Friday.