Why Isn't Online Voting Ready for Prime Time?

Voting season is upon us and you’re probably asking the same thing I am … when will I be able to e-vote on my phone, tablet, or laptop?

David Dill, professor of computer science at Stanford University and founder of Verified Voting, non-partisan non-profit group that advocates for accuracy and transparency of elections,had some interesting things to say on the subject recently:

We do a lot of things online, like banking, that require security. Why not voting?

“Surprisingly, it’s practically impossible to make online voting secure. There have been many, many reports over the past decade by top computer scientists explaining the difficulty of trying to do that. If you try to bank online you can, if something goes wrong, get a statement at the end and see if your money went to the wrong place. When you vote there’s no way to get a voting statement because we’ve got a secret ballot. If somebody was able to tell you how you voted so you could check whether it was recorded properly, that would be a big, big problem.”

Why can’t you just get a receipt?

That’s the same problem. One of the things we worry about in voting is whether you can prove how you voted to a third party. We don’t want people to be able to do that because we don’t want them to be able to sell their vote or be coerced, say, fired if they vote the wrong way.

So that’s more the problem than the technology?

It’s a combination. This is the wrong technology for this particular problem. The thing that’s scary about elections is that if votes are changed you can’t necessarily tell. If someone rips off your bank account, you at least know that it happened. But with an election you can secretly get the wrong outcome. That undermines the credibility of all election results. And when you think about it, an election you can’t believe is virtually useless.

 

Read the rest of the interview here.

Although we seem to have a handle on how to provide a secure and reliable network for online voting, we are still dealing with legacy public biases around secret balloting and having an auditable paper trail.

Maybe I’ll be able to vote for our first female president from the comfort of my own home.

 

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