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This is a draft paper from MIT researches Sunoo Park, Michael Specter, Neha Narula and Ronald L. Rivest.

Voters are understandably concerned about election security. News reports of possible election interference by foreign powers, of unauthorized voting, of voter disenfranchisement, and of technological failures call into question the integrity of elections worldwide.

This article examines the suggestions that “voting over the Internet” or “voting on the blockchain” would increase election security, and finds such claims to be wanting and misleading. While current election systems are far from perfect, Internet- and blockchain-based voting would greatly increase the risk of undetectable, nation-scale election failures.

Online voting may seem appealing: voting from a computer or smartphone may seem convenient and accessible. However, studies have been inconclusive, showing that online voting may have little to no effect on turnout in practice, and it may even increase disenfranchisement. More importantly: given the current state of computer security, any turnout increase derived from with Internet- or blockchain-based voting would come at the cost of losing meaningful assurance that votes have been counted as they were cast, and not undetectably altered or discarded. This state of affairs will continue as long as standard tactics such as malware, zero days, and denial-of-service attacks continue to be effective.

This article analyzes and systematizes prior research on the security risks of online and electronic voting, and show that not only do these risks persist in blockchain-based voting systems, but blockchains may introduce additional problems for voting systems. Finally, we suggest questions for critically assessing security risks of new voting system proposals.

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    A lot to ponder on, but I’m very disappointed that this type of research limit itself to raising issues with electronic voting instead of actually trying to find answers to these issues. This type of defeatism is annoying to me personally.

    At the same time it’s also annoying that some the signaled problems are present in mail in voting, and the research does not seem to acknowledge that.

    I feel like an acceptable electronic system should be at least as safe(or unsafe) as a mail in ballot system, as it fulfills more or less the same function: an alternative method for the people for which queuing at a voting station is undesirable or impossible.