Granted, the District did challenge experts to test its system.
"Our objective was to approach the system as real attackers would: starting from publicly available information, we looked for weaknesses that would allow us to seize control, unmask secret ballots, and alter the outcome of the mock election,'' Halderman and the team wrote in a paper published earlier this year.
The Michigan team changed votes, reportedly casting one in a school board race for Bender, a robot from the animated series "Futurama," found voters' personal information, took control of remote cameras in the computer room and -- more worryingly -- found evidence of other attacks originating in Iran, China and India.
"Within 48 hours of the system going live, we had gained near complete control of the election server. We successfully changed every vote and revealed almost every secret ballot. Election officials did not detect our intrusion for nearly two business days and might have remained unaware for far longer had we not deliberately left a prominent clue," they reported.
A telltale clue
Oh, yes, that clue: The University of Michigan fight song played when a ballot was submitted.
"Nevertheless, it took two business days for officials to become aware of the infiltration," the paper noted.
The Michigan crew shared its findings with D.C. election officials, who opted not to use the system in November 2010.
While the D.C. officials acknowledged that, "...we learned many valuable lessons" they maintained: "Even more, voters expect that there will be a day when online voting will be as simple as paying bills or paying taxes. While there will always be citizens who choose to file their taxes on paper and there will always be voters who wish to visit their local polling place on Election Day, election officials know that voters expect, one day, to cast their ballot from their laptop."
That day already is a reality in the North European nation of Estonia, "the envy of the digital world" and "among the most wired and technologically advanced countries in the world," Estonia is the leader in Internet voting, CNN reported a year ago.
Critics say that the challenges of secure Internet voting in Estonia, a nation of 1.34 million people, pale in comparison with those in the United States, where roughly 100 times that number of people voted in the 2008 presidential election.
At the conference in Connecticut last year, Rivest estimated that mass online voting in the United States was at least two decades away from reality.
West Virginia leads the way
One of those who had seen the dawning of that day is West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant.
During the 2010 general election, 125 West Virginia voters, in the military and overseas, cast ballots online. In a paper published this year, Tennant wrote: "To date, no significant deficiencies or concerns have been identified with the West Virginia online voting pilot. In short, what West Virginia did worked. It was a small program that helped an admittedly small group of voters cast their ballot more conveniently. There were 125 opportunities for something to go wrong, but to our knowledge, nothing did."
Tennant said that for members of the armed forces, particularly those stationed in war zones, being able to vote was meaningful.
Tennant made this plea to skeptics: "Instead of continuing to focus on the shortcomings of Internet voting, opponents could help strengthen it. Computer experts could lend their skills to developing encryption software that guarantees that each ballot is securely transmitted. Election officials could help voters better understand how the process works.
"Internet voting should be a safe, secure, accessible option for voters. It is time that we, as a society, agree that our voting is far too sacred to compromise -- and that at some point in time this sacred right and accessible technology must intersect. I believe the time to explore that is now," Tennant said.
Companies touting online voting are confident they are the future.
"I believe everyone will have the option of voting online, certainly within our lifetime," Lori Steele, chief executive officer of Everyone Counts, a San Diego-based Internet voting company that provides services in several states, told The Wall Street Journal.