Internet Voting Gets The Oxford Blues

from the yea-or-nea? dept

The latest Oxford Union debate was held over the question of whether internet voting was good or bad for democracy. It appears both sides made some good points, but in the end, the “bad for democracy” crowd won out. On the pro side, the head of a company that makes internet voting technology says that it helps to increase democratic participation. Letting people vote at home, or while they shop, or just about anywhere makes it much easier for people to participate in the vote. The opposing view, though, is afraid that there’s really no way to guarantee that the person who is voting is who they say they are – and that they’re not voting multiple times. Thus, there’s a risk that any democratic election will be beset with uncertainty and doubt about the results – which is harmful to the overall democratic process. The advocates for online voting responded that their systems are very secure and have ways to double-check that the person is who they say they are, and that any vote is actually counted. I understand those who point out the risks of internet voting, but I get the feeling that we’ll eventually end up there anyway. Besides, I’m not sure that the “risks” of online voting are really all that different than the same risks in offline voting. You still have cases where people pretend they’re someone else and vote multiple times and we still have elections where the “democratic process” is questioned by many people. Just look at the 2000 presidential elections, which many people are still fighting over. So, while I think it needs to be done very carefully, I think there are ways to do internet-based elections that are both fair and will increase democratic participation.

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Comments on “Internet Voting Gets The Oxford Blues”

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Anonymous Coward says:

The Unmentioned Problem

The identity verification problem can certainly be solved (although it is perhaps more difficult and more costly than many think). The problem that I don’t see a solution for is verifying that you were free to vote the way you wanted to vote.

Currently, much of the voting infrastructure is geared toward privacy in addition to identity verification. At least here in Connecticut, when you go into a voting booth, you go alone, a curtain closes behind you, and no one else is allowed near the booth. This is to insure that Joe “The Knee Breaker” Smith isn’t telling you to vote the way his organization wants you to vote. This system exists because there were times in recent history when such coercion was a problem.

I have yet to see a proposal or system for internet voting which solves, or even talks about, this problem. Should voting from home become commonplace, what is to insure that someone is not standing behind me when I am at my computer, telling me how to vote? Or worse, demanding from me whatever passwords, etc, that are used to verify my identity and voting in my place?

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