(MENAFN - The Peninsula) New Jersey's decision to allow voters displaced by superstorm Sandy to cast ballots by email has prompted a flood of warnings over security, secrecy and a potential for legal entanglements.
State officials in New Jersey announced the plan on Saturday, saying it could help victims of the unprecedented storm along with rescuers who may also be unable to get to polling places.
The northeast state is allowing voters to request a ballot by e-mail or fax to their county clerk, and returning their ballot by the same means by 8pm today.
Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno said the move was designed "to help alleviate pressure on polling places."
But some experts say email voting, which is being allowed by some states for military and overseas voters, has not been tested on a large scale and opens up a host of technical and legal obstacles.
Email ballots could be vulnerable to hacking or computer viruses, and could put the election at risk, says Matt Blaze, a University of Pennsylvania computer scientist specialising in security.
"The security implications of voting by email are, under normal conditions, more than sufficient to make any computer security specialist recoil in horror," Blaze said in a blog post.
"Email, of course, is not at all authenticated, reliable, or confidential, and that by itself opens the door to new forms of election mischief that would be far more difficult in a traditional in-person polling station or with paper absentee ballot."
But Blaze said that due to the exceptional circumstances, "the question is whether these risks outweigh the benefits, and whether the technical and procedural safeguards that are in place are adequate."
"All of this is relatively uncharted territory," Blaze added. Andrew Appel, a Princeton University computer scientist, said that "Internet voting is inherently insecure" and that "email is the most insecure form of Internet voting."