Digital Democracy Good – for Voting Bad Bad Bad!

Our friends across the pond are thinking of Internet Voting. Tech unsavvy elders apparently want to entice young voters. Hopefully, the young are savvy enough to understand the security risks and are too smart to trust democracy to smart phones.

Editorial in ComputerWorldUK highlighted at TheVotingNews:  Digital Democracy? – Yes, Please; but Not Online Voting <read>

Enabling people to vote online would indeed draw in many young people who otherwise wouldn’t vote, and that’s hugely important. So why am I against the idea? Well, the report quotes a good encapsulation of the key issues here by the Open Rights Group:

Voting is a uniquely difficult question for computer science: the system must verify your eligibility to vote; know whether you have already voted; and allow for audits and recounts. Yet it must always preserve your anonymity and privacy. Currently, there are no practical solutions to this highly complex problem and existing systems are unacceptably flawed.

Another warning [.pdf] comes from a formidable trio of security researchers in their submission to the Digital Democracy Commission:

In our view, the adoption of online voting technology would present extremely grave challenges to the integrity of UK elections, and risk disadvantaging significant sections of the population, which would present a real danger of undermining public confidence in democracy rather than strengthening it as the Commission rightly seeks to do.

Finally, people who oppose the use of new technology for well-established activities are sometimes accused of being Luddites and of letting their ignorance stand in the way of perfectly acceptable change. In the case of e-voting, we believe that the more familiar people are with the technology, the more they understand the very substantial risks that it poses to the democratic process. It is ignorance that leads people to suppose that e-voting is risk-free and desirable; and it is technical experts such as us (and our colleagues whose carefully-argued papers we have cited) who are cautioning against embracing e-voting for the foreseeable future.


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