Experts have also warned that the proposed online ballot delivery system could be hacked on a massive scale because of a second and related vulnerability that still exists with the state’s new online voter registration system.
Maryland residents can register to vote online with a driver’s license number. But in Maryland, that number is a formula of a resident’s name and birth date that can be found online.
Rebecca Wilson, co-director of the nonprofit SAVE Our Votes, testified before state lawmakers Thursday that any hacker who pays $125 for Maryland’s publicly available database of voter records and who is adept at scouring Facebook or other social media sites for birthdays could easily assume voters’ identities and compromise a state election.
“By taking the voter history file, it’s pretty easy to see who votes and who doesn’t. A hacker could target those who don’t vote and request absentee ballots on the behalf of tens of thousands, and there would be no way for the State Board of Elections to determine that,” said Wilson, a chief elections judge in Prince George’s County.
Asked by lawmakers about such a scenario, Ross K. Goldstein, deputy administrator of the elections board, acknowledged an ongoing vulnerability in the state’s new online voter registration system because of its reliance on driver’s license numbers.
But he said the board was monitoring the system for suspicious behavior and in coming months would begin requiring registrants to answer additional questions with personal information to confirm their identities before creating or altering a voter registration file.
Goldstein dismissed Wilson’s broader complaint about the move toward online ballot marking, suggesting that she and other critics want the state to return to paper-only balloting.
“I believe technology can solve problems, and there are steps that we definitely can, and plan to, take to mitigate the risks,” he said.
But Wilson warned that he state’s proposed system could expose voters’ ballot preferences to online intruders.
In Maryland, any resident can choose to voteabsentee, and those who select to receive a ballot over the Internet would have the option of marking their preferences electronically on their computer or printing out the ballot and marking their selections by hand.
Selections that voters make online would be embedded in a bar code that would appear once the voter prints the ballot. Whether marked by hand or online, the ballot would still have to be returned by mail. But Wilson warned that online snooping software, such as that used to monitor employees at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, could surreptitiously capture a voter’s selections.