- Shayanne Gal/Business Insider
- The 2018 midterm elections are upon us.
- In 25 states, service members who qualify under the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act can submit their ballots via email or through an online portal.
- Approximately 100,000 service members sent in their ballots electronically in 2016, but cybersecurity experts warn that online voting is susceptible to malware attacks and privacy breaches.
America’s voter turnout rates are much lower on average than those of other Western democracies, with 60% of eligible voters casting ballots in the 2016 presidential election, and just 36% in the 2014 midterms.
Online voting has been floated as a suggestion to increase turnout by making the voting process much more convenient, literally placing it at the tip of your fingers. In one 2015 poll, 49% of 18-34 year old Americans surveyed said they would be more likely to vote if they would do so online.
While online voting is unavailable for most Americans, some states allow military service members and other select overseas citizens to send in their ballots over email, fax, or in an online voting portal. In 2016, an estimated 100,000 military voters submitted their ballots electronically.
Most online voting rights are reserved for voters that fall under the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA). Because military personnel are often placed in remote areas without consistent access to mail services, emailing their ballots to their local election authorities or casting votes through a portal is often a more reliable option.
But cybersecurity experts have warned that voting online opens up voters, election officials, and their devices to systemic malware attacks, privacy breaches, and “denial of service” attacks that can disable an entire town’s election systems.
“Until there is a major technological breakthrough in or fundamental change to the nature of the internet, the best method for securing elections is a tried-and-true one: mailed paper ballots,” the authors of a 2018 report on online voting conclude.
Alaska, which previously had one of the most accessible online voting platforms, suspended online voting in the wake of foreign hacks on US voting infrastructure in the 2016 election. But West Virginia is experimenting with a brand-new mobile app that relies on blockchain technology for service members to submit their votes.
Here are all the states that allow service members to submit ballots online:
- Business Insider
Arizona permits certain UOCAVA voters with authorization from their county to use an online voting portal. This will allow voters to upload their absentee ballots straight to the website.
- Flickr/mark gallagher
In Colorado, UOCAVA are the only citizens that can vote online using email.
Delaware also allows online voting for UOCAVA voters via email.
District of Columbia
While not a state, Washington D.C. also allows voters that fall under UOCAVA to vote via email.
- Shutterstock/Mr Doomits
In 2016, the Hawaii State Legislature enacted legislation to allow “permanent absentee” voters, like military service members, to recieve and return their ballots via email if they request an absentee ballot less than 5 days before an election.
Idaho allows military voters to recieve and return their ballots via fax or email.
Indiana allows voters that fall under UOCAVA to vote via email.
In Iowa, all absentee ballots must be returned via postal mail, unless you are “an active member of the army, navy, marine corps, merchant marine, coast guard, air force, or Iowa National Guard and are outside the U.S. or any of its territories.” In that case, you are eligible to email in your ballot.
Kansas also only allows online absentee voting options to UOCAVA voters that can submit their vote via email. Kansas’ Secretary of State website encourages voters to choose options for improving the security of their email.
- Jeff Gunn/Flickr
In Maine, UOCAVA voters can return their ballots electronically via email.
- Richard Cavalleri/Shutterstock
Massachusetts also allows online voting for UOCAVA voters via email.
- Nagel Photography/Shutterstock
Mississippi also allows online voting for UOCAVA voters via email.
- Rudy Balasko/Shutterstock
- Flickr/Mark Smith
Montana also allows online voting for UOCAVA voters via email.
Nebraska allows overseas military voters to send in their ballots via fax or email.
- Flickr / Moyan Brenn
Nevada also allows online voting for UOCAVA voters via email.
- Flickr/David Saddler
New Jersey allows online voting for UOCAVA voters via email, but if submitting a vote by email, the voter also has to submit the original copy of the ballot via postal mail as well.
- John Fowler / Flickr
New Mexico also allows online voting for UOCAVA voters via email.
North Carolina also allows online voting for UOCAVA voters via email.
North Dakota allows UOCAVA voters to vote in their online portal. While they also allow these voters to submit their votes using postal mail and fax, they encourage the online portal, saying “voters using the electronic methods will expedite the process.”
Oregon also allows online voting for UOCAVA voters via email.
- Flickr/Garden State Hiker
South Carolina also allows online voting for UOCAVA voters via email.
- Andrew S./Shutterstock
Like many states, Utah allows UOCAVA voters to return their ballots online using their online ballot marking tool. It also allows voters with disabilities to mark their ballots online.
- Sorin Colac/Shutterstock
Washington also only allows online voting for UOCAVA voters via email.
- Nicolas Raymond / Flickr
West Virginia previously allowed online voting for UOCAVA voters via email, but in 2018, they became the first state to introduce purely online voting for military voters in 2018 with a mobile app that uses blockchain technology.
In the 2018 midterms, 24 out of West Virginia’s 55 counties will offer military voters to vote through the new app, which requires users to authenticate their identity with a fingerprint or facial recognition before logging in.
Cybersecurity experts warned in an October 2018 report that while the decentralized nature of blockchain may increase transparency, blockchain “fail[s] to resolve the insoluble security issues inherent with online voting. These issues include server penetration attacks, client-device malware, denial-of-service attacks and disruption attacks.”
Lori Janjigian contributed to an earlier version of this story.
Read more of Business Insider’s 2018 Midterm Election coverage:
- Business Insider
- All the dates, deadlines, and rules you need to know before voting in the 2018 midterm elections
- SENATE BATTLEGROUND MAP: The race for control of the Senate is as tight as it can be
- Here is the last day you can register to vote in every state
- Here are the deadlines in every state to vote absentee in the 2018 midterm elections
- You can take time off work to vote in 30 US states – but you’re out of luck in the rest