Despite these minor successes, criticism abounds over the trustworthiness of voting tech. Max Kaye, the Chief Technology Officer of SecureVote, says he hears the same arguments from the public about flawed designs of certain products. Kaye has spoken at conferences and engaged with political commentators over the idea, but has since drawn back from trying to persuade people.
“Technical arguments aren’t the best way to convince someone who isn’t technical,” Kaye says in a phone call. “It’s one of these problems where it’s much better to spend time creating a system that is robust by design and stands the test of battle than to particularly try to rebut people’s arguments too much because you end up spending a lot of time doing that instead of working on actually building things.”
In addition to the Iowa technology flop, MIT researchers released a report in February identifying major security vulnerabilities in Voatz’s technology indicating hackers could alter ballots and expose voters’ identities. Voatz responded to the research in a blog post, stating the study was based on an old version of their app. But the report and additional research from the Department of Homeland Security ultimately led West Virginia to abandon the voting app.
“No doubt there has been a lot of healthy and good questions coming from the academic, the advocate and the activist communities,” Finney says. “We embrace that because we want to work in collaboration with all of the different, interested parties.”
As tech leaders call for academics to work with them, Philip Stark, a statistics professor at University of California, Berkeley, says he does work with cryptographers, but the field agrees remote voting isn’t secure.
“It isn’t that we aren’t willing to work with them,” Stark says. “In fact, we write white papers explaining the hard problems and why isn’t there no solution to this right now, and instead these people are just marketing stuff, lying about what it does, and hiding the implementation details to make it harder for people to understand the specific way in which it fails. So that’s really disingenuous.”