Despite security concerns, online voting gets $10 million: NPR

Founder and CEO of Tusk Holdings, Bradley Tusk, speaks on stage during TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2016 in San Francisco. On Thursday, he announced a $10 million grant to develop online voting.

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Steve Jennings/Getty Images for TechCrunch

Founder and CEO of Tusk Holdings, Bradley Tusk, speaks on stage during TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2016 in San Francisco. On Thursday, he announced a $10 million grant to develop online voting.

Steve Jennings/Getty Images for TechCrunch

By 2028, Bradley Tusk wants every American to be able to vote on their phones.

It’s a noble goal and most cybersecurity experts laugh at it. But it is an endeavor that the venture capitalist and former political insider continues to do away with.

His nonprofit, Tusk Philanthropies, announced $10 million The grant program on Thursday to fund the development of a new online voting system that it says is aimed at winning over security skeptics, who have long been wary of votes being cast over digital networks rather than the paper ballots or ATMs that most Americans currently use.

NPR is the first to report the announcement.

“My goal is to enable everyone in this country to vote in every election on their phone,” Tusk said in an interview with NPR.

Years of effort in making

Tusk was Uber’s first political advisor, and he’s also a former employee of Senator Chuck Schumer, vice president, and former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg.

It has already funded a number of small mobile voting pilot projects across the United States over the past few years, where voters with disabilities and Americans living abroad from a select few regions have been able to digitally return their ballots.

However, the vendors who ran those beta programs faced intense scrutiny for security flaws in their systems as well as a general lack of transparency about their software, as the source code for the underlying technology remained private.

Those criticisms prompted Tusk to fund the development of a new open source option.

After a review process involving nearly 25 applications, his organization settled on Assembly Voting, a Denmark-based election technology company, and OSET, a US nonprofit dedicated to election technology and research.

OSET will design the application of public-facing polling marks, and the association will design the technology that will actually transmit electronic polling From a person’s phone or device to an election official.

This transfer process will be verifiable from start to finish, says Jacob Gildencairn, CEO of Assembly Voting, which means the voter will have a way of making sure their vote is recorded and counted correctly and hasn’t been tampered with during the transfer.

End-to-end verifiability is a prerequisite by some cybersecurity experts for any online voting system, although Gyldenkærne says that even with such verifiability, he anticipates a flood of questions about the security of which system the assembly vote comes in.

“We are very open to academic researchers, ethical hackers and the security community,” says Gyldenkærne. “It’s a huge project, and it’s important to say it’s a development project…we don’t have the Holy Grail.”

The election technology provided by the association has not been used by a state or local government in the United States.

Tusk optimistic skeptic winnable

The congregation will face an uphill battle to win over a cybersecurity community that has been questionable, if not horrific, with the idea of ​​this mobile voting system.

“There is a strong consensus in the cybersecurity community that voting on a smartphone is a really stupid idea,” Duncan Boyle, a University of South Carolina professor of computer science who specializes in election technology, said in an interview with NPR last year. .

Greg Miller, of the OSET Institute, says he traditionally agrees with this kind of thinking. But he was comforted by what he saw as Tusk’s seriousness to engage with the security community, including by adhering to recommendations coming from a working group focused on digital voting at the University of California, Berkeley and by working with cybersecurity firm Synack to screen grant applications.

“That sounds like the right approach,” Miller says. “It’s not a race to commercialization. It’s rapid progress toward a system that everyone can take a look at.”

Tusk says he knows security-minded experts may not be blessed at first, but he’s optimistic that once the open-source system is ready for testing and testing, currently scheduled for mid-2022, at least some skeptics can be attracted.

He also acknowledges that conspiracy theories about election technology in the 2020 elections may be an obstacle. Many election officials may be reluctant to try new technology that could lead to more fraud and hacking lawsuits.

But he says such allegations stem from How is polarized politics in the United States currently and that high turnout elections and especially the primaries can offer a solution.

“The past few years have achieved in some respects [this effort] “It’s harder,” Tusk says. “They also made it more necessary.”