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Florida takes a step toward Internet voting

Secretary of State Kurt Browning is touring the Middle East with other elections officials who are all hearing the same thing from soldiers: Allow us to vote -- or at least register -- by Internet.

And while that's a distant (but currently illegal) possibility, Browning mentioned that a new, experimental vote-by-remote system for Okaloosa County has been approved by his office. Called Operation Bravo, the new system would let overseas Okaloosa residents vote via a secure, electronic network.

Groups like the Voters Coalition are no fans. They fear the system is too experimental and too secretive right now. More here on that. Browning said his staff has approved the pilot project, but it's up to military-heavy Okaloosa to implement it. "I don’t think we’re going to commit to internet voting," Browning said, noting that mention of "the world wide web strikes fear in the hearts of men."

Still, Browning said, the call for secure Internet voting is getting stronger.

"We can bank, buy clothes on line, we can shop. But we can't register, we can't vote (online)," Browning said.  "It's something we need to look at."

oplHere's a fact sheet from Browning's office:

"Currently, overseas voters can be sent a blank ballot via email, postal mail or by fax.  The voted absentee ballots can then be returned by postal mail or fax. (Pursuant to Rule 2.030 Electronic Transmission of Absentee Ballots, F.A.C)

* The ODBP system provides supervised absentee voting kiosks in three overseas locations. Each kiosk location will be staffed by county election officials. The kiosk voting stations will employ secure electronic remote voting technology and will be operated under the management and control of the Okaloosa County Supervisor of Elections.

* The voting stations will be connected to a secure voting server in Barcelona, Spain by a secure Virtual Private Network (VPN).  The overseas locations have been selected for their proximity to Okaloosa voters based at U.S. military installations in Mildenhall, England; Ramstein, Germany; and Kadena, Japan. The kiosks will be available from October 24 to November 2, 2008 prior to the general election and open to all qualified military and civilian voters in the vicinity who have submitted a request to vote by this method. 

*The Bureau of Voting Systems Certification performed public functional testing of this system July 14 to August 8, 2008. During July 31 to August 3, 2008, a team reviewed the physical security of the data center which houses the servers to be used in this project.  The test report was completed on September 23, 2008 and the Provisional Certification of the Scytl Release 1.0 Version voting system was signed by the Director of the Florida Division of Elections on September 24, 2008.

*High Points of Scytl Release 1.0 Version 1 Certification:

*All election material is encrypted and digitally signed for confidentiality and integrity. Ballots are stored in cryptographic digital envelopes and can only be decrypted by a majority of the Canvassing Board after the election is closed.

* All transmission of election material is conducted over an encrypted Virtual Private Network which provides a virtual tunnel for data to flow from one to end to the other without interference (i.e. tampering, spoofing, etc).

*Assigned secure elections access roles in the system are split among multiple elections officials to provide accountability and mitigate insider threats.

* Voting Kiosk locations are supervised by trained, trusted Okaloosa officials who will enforce physical security measures at the kiosk locations.

*Every voter is authenticated by the kiosk officials using the Okaloosa County voter registration database prior to voting.

*The system maintains voter privacy at all levels.

* The Division of Elections conducted a Data Center Security Assessment and found that the data center provides exceptional physical security of the Scytl servers which includes constant surveillance, emergency power supply, and data redundancy.  The test team also concludes that the network infrastructure provides reliability and security to the important and sensitive data processed by the Scytl servers.

*From July 14 to August 8, 2008, the Division of Elections test team conducted Functional Qualification testing of seven test elections and verified the proper functionality of activities such as generation of cryptographic keys for each election, deployment of election files to the voting serves, voter identification and authentication, voter verification of paper record, casting of ballot and delivery of counted as cast receipts, closing of election, downloading of ballot box, decryption and tabulation, voter confirmation of ballot receipt, and retention of audit logs.

* Voters can confirm the transmission of the ballot to the Okaloosa County Elections Office.

* Voter Choice Records are generated, can be confirmed by voters, and are kept as a backup of the electronic transfer of ballot.

*Satisfies the security requires of Rule 2.030, F.A.C and the Florida Voting System Standards."