Why we can’t use Internet for election voting?

Internet for election voting

Our social lives are conducted on the Internet, along with purchases, entertainment and cab hailing. You connect your browser to the appropriate site, authenticate yourself, make your choices with the mouse, click on a final confirmation button, and you are done!

All of the potential attacks alluded to above apply equally to shopping and banking services, so what is the difference? People ask, quite naturally, “If it is safe to do my banking and shopping online, why can’t we vote online?”

We moved from the oral ballot to the anonymous paper ballot at the turn of the 20th century over 116 years ago. Not much has changed, except that we can now vote earlier and by absentee.

Why are we still using paper ballots to vote for elected officials?  Why not just click a few buttons on a website to make our choice known?

There have some reasons to not accepting the online voting system.

Most of the people may be concerned about hacking.

The risk in moving to online voting: giving up privacy and the "voter fraud," that many candidates and elected officials have talked about during this cycle.

The main thing holding back change is fear of the unknown, says Jonathan Bright, a research fellow at Oxford University in England. “People are afraid of making major changes to the system.”

“Look at any government agency, and their technology will be at least 10 years old,” Bright says. “It sounds easy, but making electronic voting work is a much harder problem than making Facebook or Google work.” When we register to vote, we give our names, ages, address, and gender, just like we do when we get Google and Facebook accounts. But, “Do we really want Google running the election?”

There is widespread pressure around the country today for the introduction of some form of Internet voting in public elections that would allow people to vote online, all electronically, from their own personal computers or mobile devices.

Computer and network security experts are virtually unanimous in pointing out that online voting is an exceedingly dangerous threat to the integrity of public elections.

There is no way to guarantee that the security, privacy, and transparency requirements for elections can all be met with any practical technology in the foreseeable future.

Anyone from a disaffected misfit individual to a national intelligence agency can remotely attack an online election, modifying or filtering ballots in ways that are undetectable and uncorrectable, or just disrupting the election and creating havoc. There are a host of such attacks that can be used singly or in combination.

In the cybersecurity world today almost all of the advantages are with attackers, and any of these attacks can result in the wrong persons being elected, or initiatives wrongly passed or rejected.

The technical security, privacy, and transparency requirements for voting are structurally different from, and actually much more stringent than, those for e-commerce transactions. Even if e-commerce transactions were safe, the security technology underpinning them would not suffice for voting. In particular, the voting security and privacy requirements are unique and in tension in a way that has no analog in the e-commerce world.

The voter may know the details of his votes, while election officials must not. Officials know the names of those who voted, and the contents of the cast ballots, but they are never supposed to know exactly who cast which ballot. This is a requirement for information suppression, partial blindness on the part of one side in the transaction that has no analog in the E-Commerce world. Furthermore, although each voter knows how he personally voted and is free to tell anyone, he is not allowed to have any proof of how he voted that could convince a third party. This is the most powerful protection we have against the threat of vote selling and voter coercion and is unique to voting. In this respect, voting privacy requirements are almost the opposite of E-Commerce privacy expectations in which both sides generally insist on possessing proof of the details of a transaction.

Paper has some fundamental properties as a technology that makes it the right thing to use for voting. You have more-or-less indelible marks on the thing. You have physical objects you can control. And everyone understands it. If you’re in a polling place and somebody disappears with a ballot box into a locked room and emerges with a smirk, maybe you know that there is a problem. We’ve had a long time to work out the procedures with paper ballots and need to think twice before we try to throw new technology at the problem. People take paper ballots for granted.

A Stanford computer scientist says Internet voting would be "a complete disaster."

So, online voting is such a dangerous idea that computer scientists and security experts are nearly unanimous in opposition to it. Though, some countries let you vote online. Estonia, Chile, and Uganda are countries e-voting company Smartmatic lists as past clients on its website. Switzerland also has experimented with online voting.

 

Digital technology has huge potential to improve public services and democratic participation. It just so happens that due to its unique nature, voting in public elections is one place where we are best sticking to another technology 'Paper'. That’s not to say that there isn’t room to improve our existing processes, there is, just not with online voting.

 

Stock photo from Visual Generation

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