The contract was granted by consulting firm Accenture, which is working with the U.S. Department of Defense on a voting system known as the Secure Electronic Registration and Voting Experiment. When completed, the system will allow absentee military personnel and overseas Americans from eight participating states to cast their votes in the 2004 general election.
"The solution we are building will enable absentee voters to exercise their right to vote," said George Schu, a vice president at VeriSign. "The sanctity of the vote can't be compromised nor can the integrity of the system be compromised--it's security at all levels."
VeriSign has been selected to host the servers and information needed to authenticate voters and ensure that they cast only one vote. Internet and electronic voting systems are notoriously hard to secure. In July, researchers at Johns Hopkins Universitywith a leading electronic voting system manufactured by Diebold Election Systems.
Schu stressed that several layers of security will prevent hackers from accessing the system. VeriSign will house the security servers in its own hosting centers. The company will ask military personnel to use their Common Access Cards--the latest form of ID for the military--to access the system and cast a vote. Civilians will use digital signatures.
Overseas U.S. citizens from Arkansas, Florida, Hawaii, Minnesota, North Carolina, South Carolina, Utah and Washington will be able to use the system to cast votes.