Citing security concerns, Delaware cancels plans to allow voters to cast online ballots in its upcoming primary elections.
The COVID-19 pandemic has upended American election procedures, with election officials across the country expanding vote-by-mail options that allow residents to cast ballots without ever stepping foot in the voting booth.
Delaware election officials nixed a plan to offer an online ballot-return method to voters in its presidential primary next month, citing a recent report from security experts that found that the platform is vulnerable to voter manipulation and numerous security vulnerabilities, including potential denial of service attacks, malware intrusions, and privacy violations.
Before the online option was shuttered, voters returned more than 2,700 ballots electronically — and those votes still will be counted, according to the officials, along with conventional votes in the upcoming July primary.
The platform, OmniBallot, is an electronic method of delivering and returning ballots via a secure online portal, hosted by Amazon’s secure cloud, AWS. The platform enables election officials to send ballots to hard-to-reach voters, like deployed military members, civilians living abroad, and voters with disabilities. Those voters are able to return their completed ballots through a variety of methods, including mail, email, and fax.
But, according to StateScoop, Delaware was also one of a handful of states that planned to test out OmniBallot’s ability to transmit ballots online, which raised concern with some election security analysts who argue that the internet is a dangerous venue for voting.
According to StateScoop:
Delaware voters can still receive their absentee ballots electronically, print them out, complete them and mail them back using a state-operated service. But the state will continue offering the option for ballots to be returned electronically using Egress Switch, a secure document-transfer platform that other Delaware agencies use for transferring information.
While Delaware dropped OmniBallot, West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner said Monday that his state’s use of the platform in last week’s primary election was a success, with 180 voters — including 25 with qualifying disabilities — in 26 different countries, returning their ballots electronically.
Due to health concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Larry Hogan in April approved a plan to conduct Maryland’s presidential primary election primarily via mail-in ballots, with limited locations to submit completed ballots at designated drop-off locations or to vote in-person on election day.
While Maryland’s presidential primary election was plagued by long lines, late-arriving/missing ballots, and computer glitches, the State Board of Elections has yet to announce a plan for the November general election. According to Maryland Matters, State Board members believe that the election could be solely in-person, entirely vote-by-mail, or a mix of the two.
Stay tuned to Conduit Street for more information.