Law in the Internet Society
-- GueinahBlaise - 11 Nov 2023

Internet Voting: The Battle between Voting integrity and Voting Accessibility


As I read the articles on voting I found myself absorbing the knowledge through a hypercritical lens. The repeated sentiments from the Raney, and Moglen pieces are that internet voting is far too risky to our democratic and threatens election integrity. Proponents of internet voting often say that it increases voter accessibility and turnout. However, is internet voting necessary for this? Are election integrity and election accessibility mutually exclusive?

How Risky is Internet Voting

Voting is unique from the various risky online behaviors we engage in online in that it is a fundamental right that has heavy implications and effects on our society. The stakes are higher. Additionally,voting requires a level of secrecy and privacy. The votes must be correctly and properly counted, without exposing who voted for whom. In the other activities mistakes are “traceable.” In the case of voting, however, “intentional lack of traceability of a cast ballot back to a voter due to the requirement of a secret ballot demands different technical controls than other types of online transactions" ( If there are any mistakes, perceived or otherwise, there can be some serious repercussions. Take for example the conspiracies around the 2020 elections where there was an insurrection over the election results.

Security and Privacy Concerns with Internet Voting

What do we mean when we say the internet is not secure? Coleman and Freelon In Digital Politics Coleman and Freelon discuss how, according to ProPublica? , the NSA is winning its war on encryption and has been able to access the digital footprints of citizens ( For cybersecurity experts their ability to circumvent internet security shows just how dangerous internet voting is ( There are threats of “worms, viruses, and Trojan horses.” Also, this proves that the American government, as well as foreign governments, are willing to throw a large amount of resources towards deciding elections. Even the scientists at the pentagon acknowledge that voting programs like SERVE are especially vulnerable to cyberattacks ( .

While many experts understand the desire to use internet voting, many of them believe that, as a society, we “may have to sacrifice convenience for security” (See Raney piece). In fact, UC Berkeley, with the leadership of Bradley Tusk, Uber’s first political adviser, tried addressing these issues with a working group in 2021 ( While it acknowledged that, “Internet ballot return has the potential to significantly improve upon existing solutions for accessibility,” after more than a year working on this issue, the working group concluded that (1) “that internet ballot return has different technology needs and a different acceptable level of risk when compared to other activities we conduct on the internet,” and that (2) “that the current cybersecurity environment and state of technology make it infeasible for the Working Group to draft responsible standards to support the use of internet ballot return in U.S. public elections at this time.” ( En route to this conclusion they point to the absence of a directly voter-verifiable ballot of record and the fact that internet ballot returns carry larger risks of wholesale attacks than other common voting methods, to support their findings (

The UC Berkeley Working Group ended their report with a discussion of the need to balance voting integrity and voting accessibility. They explain that, “Election officials must balance fairness, accessibility, security, transparency, equity, and reliability when delivering solutions for voters.” In the case of internet voting, the primary concerns officials are balancing are security (or integrity) and accessibility. In this case, “while the Working Group believes it is currently infeasible to draft responsible standards on internet ballot return, it also recognizes that all current methods of voting have risks that must be carefully managed and all present benefits intended to serve the varied needs of voters” ( The working group does not speak about the voting integrity and accessibility as if they are mutually exclusive. Instead we must carefully consider the benefits of methods like internet voting and should not “eliminat[e] these forms of voting entirely without reasonable alternatives could produce an unacceptable risk to those with accessibility needs” ( They went on to say that doing so “would place election officials in a position of violating the requirements of the HAVA and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), expanding them could present unacceptable security risks to those same voters and the integrity of the election” but left it up to election officials, who they believe to be in a better position to balance these factors.

Accessibility of Internet Voting and the Alternatives

While not all states allow voting online, about “26 states and Washington, D.C., allow military and overseas voters to return their ballots by email, and seven states allow those voters to return their ballots using an online portal. A few additional states allow voters to return ballots via fax” ( Additionally, about 13 states permit those with disabilities to vote using one of the aforementioned methods ( If online voting is so risky why do so many states allow it as an option? There are several reasons many states opted to allow internet voting, chiefs among them are ignorance, accessibility and voter turnout. For starters, many of the states who have internet voting options allowed them before 2010, prior to any widespread concern over the security of online voting ( I doubt the policymakers imagined the cyberattack Russian bots launched on social media to influence the 2016 and 2020 elections. A lot has changed since these states implemented the internet voting programs.

The push for online voting programs, there were two main concerns: accessibility and voter turnout. For a while accessibility to the ballot was a key topic of discussion of state lawmakers. Unfortunately, it was not out of concern for persons with disabilities. Rather it was because many states were facing lawsuits when voters with disabilities in states like North Carolina and Inidian have sued to force “states to expand the pool of voters who are able to return their ballots electronically” ( They argue that the mail-in ballots are not effective and often “leave people behind” (

The data shows that voting is a very difficult process for voters with disabilities. To start, people with disabilities are less likely to vote than people without disabilities ( One reason for this is the fact that “they are discouraged by barriers to getting to or using polling places, which make voting more time-consuming and difficult, and may also decrease feelings of efficacy by sending the message that people with disabilities are not expected to participate in the political sphere” ( While mail-in ballots increased turnout of voters with disabilities by 6% in 2020, they continue to experience barriers to voting ( While internet voting has been a popular solutions for states, there are other proposed options to increase voter accessibility. First and foremost, there need to be more updated, and physically accessible polling sites, especially in rural areas. This is perhaps the most expensive option out of them, however, I think, considering the importance of voting to our society (see discussion in Section II) this is well worth the investment. Additionally, election officials should collaborate with advocacy groups and with people with disabilities to hear their concerns, collaborate on solutions, and do outreach on what is currently available. This may include things like “posting audio files with the full text of ballots and instructions on how to mark the ballot (Idaho33), booklets and videos on accessible voting features (Hawaii, North Dakota34), outreach to assisted living facilities (Alaska35), Voter Education Kits provided to individuals at conferences, provider locations, psychiatric hospitals, nursing homes, and senior centers (West Virginia36), and radio and television public service announcements in conjunction with disability organizations (New York37)” ( These current efforts are not enough but they are building blocks we can work on to make voting accessible with sacrificing voting integrity.


Overall, I agree with the UC Berkeley Working Group. As of today, it is not feasible to create “responsible standards” for internet voting. The cybersecurity and national security concerns are far too great. The internet is far too vulnerable. I don't know if the internet will ever be secure enough to allow online voting without compromising election integrity. However, this does not mean that our elections are doomed to be inaccessible for voters. Election integrity and voter accessibility are not mutually exclusive. We do not have to sacrifice one for the other. We should instead be looking to improve the ways of making polling stations, poll workers, and the physical ballots themselves more accessible. W should also look towards investing technology, independent of the internet, to make this possible.

The way to improve the draft is to write the one you say in the conclusion of this one you say you should have written: your insight is good. So the first draft has done its good work: you have located the topic and started to find the sources. (None of which is the NPR "explainer": a quarternary source that can only lead to real secondary and primary sources.) Onward and upward....



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r3 - 12 Jan 2024 - 20:15:07 - GueinahBlaise
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