Elections in the United States aren't perfect. Between rare instances of voter fraud, attempts to make it harder for people to vote, voter intimidation, egregious manipulation of voting districts by major parties, and regularly low voter turnout, there's plenty of room for improvement — leading governments at all levels in the US federal system to examine alternative voting mechanisms that could alleviate these issues. In the age of the internet, an obvious solution for many is remote internet voting — an option that seems more palatable every year given the adoption of PCs, mobile devices, and broadband internet. And in 2012, more citizens than ever will have access to online voting assistance: more than 30 states and the District of Columbia will offer registration or provide absentee ballots for overseas voters using email or an internet portal. But can internet voting really solve problems in US elections?

New voting technologies face a mountain of scrutiny. Elections in the United States require a high level of integrity, across multiple dimensions, either by public expectation or by law. These requirements include secrecy (so people can't find out how you voted), privacy (so people can't stand over your shoulder at the ballot box and coerce you), accountability (so votes can be verified as authentic), uniqueness (so people can only vote once), and accuracy (so votes are recorded correctly). Good voting systems should also be reliable, flexible, convenient, and cost-effective. For remote internet voting to be feasible and meaningful, it has to fulfill all of these criteria adequately, and experts are skeptical that an internet voting system could meet all of these needs.

Each time an internet voting initiative begins in the US, warnings come from high places. A circle of expert technologists in the United States have been speaking out against the prospect of online voting since various groups began exploring it as early as 2000. And government bodies like the National Institute of Science and Technology have identified serious security vulnerabilities
and voter authentication and election auditing weaknesses in pilot systems. According to some critics of internet voting, a secure solution might as well be penciled in on the calendar next to cold fusion; experts say the technical challenges of securing a remote online voting system are insurmountable, at least in the foreseeable future.