With the increasing shift from analog to digital, some elections officials are unsurprisingly chomping at the bit to move toward Internet-based voting. My weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) notes that last year, Elections Canada officials mused about the possibility of online voting trials, noting the potential benefits of increasing voter participation, particularly among younger demographics.
More recently, the province of Alberta opened the door to incorporating new technologies into their voting processes as part of an electoral reform package. New trials would require the approval of a legislative committee, but the province's Chief Electoral Officer acknowledged that online voting may be coming, noting "online voting is something that's on the forefront of people's minds. . . people say, 'I can do my banking online, but I can't do my voting online'."
The enthusiasm for Internet voting is understandable. At first blush, there is a certain allure associated with the convenience of Internet voting, given the prospect of increased turnout, reduced costs, and quicker reporting of results. Moreover, since other security sensitive activities such as banking and health care have gravitated online, supporters argue that elections can't be far behind. Yet before rushing into Internet voting trials, the dangers should not be overlooked.
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Appeared in the Toronto Star on March 8, 2010 as Hackers, Viruses Threaten Online Voting Validity With the increasing shift from analog to digital, some elections officials are unsurprisingly chomping at the bit to move toward Internet-based voting. Last year, Elections Canada officials mused about the possibility of online voting […]
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My weekly Law Bytes column (Toronto Star version, homepage version ) discusses the upcoming municipal elections in Ontario and the growing use of electronic voting machines and Internet voting. For example, several Ontario municipalities, including Markham and Peterborough, now offer Internet-based voting, enabling local residents to vote without leaving their homes. Closer examination of electronic and Internet voting reveals some significant dangers that should not be overlooked, however.
Democracy depends upon a fair, accurate, and transparent electoral process with outcomes that can be independently verified. Conventional voting accomplishes many of these goals – private polling stations enable citizens to cast their votes anonymously, election day scrutineers offer independent oversight, and paper-based ballots provide a verifiable outcome that can be re-counted if necessary.
While technology may someday allow us to replicate these essential features online, many of them are currently absent from Internet voting, which is subject to any number of possible disruptions, including denial of service attacks that shut down the election process, hacks into the election system, or the insertion of computer viruses that tamper with election results.
Electronic voting machines are similarly prone to error.
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