E-Voting

An Eccentric Anomaly: Ed Davies's Blog

The Scottish government are doing a consultation on introducing e-voting. Ironically, replying to the consultation seems to require proprietary software of some sort (direct filling in of PDF forms in the browser) which my fairly standard Firefox on Ubuntu doesn't seem to manage. Silly really when it's quite simple to do the whole thing in straightforward HTML.

Anyway, the Open Rights Group have a good article on some problems with e-voting. I'd like to point out another one.

They say that voting should be secure, anonymous and verifiable. Those would be nice. In addition, though, it must not only be possible for people to keep their votes secret but it must also be impossible for them not to.

That is, nobody should be able to prove how they voted to anybody else. I think this is one of the reasons that photography is not allowed in the polling station and also one of the reasons that postal votes have traditionally been discouraged. Of course, anybody's free to say how they voted but they can lie if they want to.

The point is that people then cannot be pressured by spouses, employers, landlords or anybody else with some sort of power over them to vote in any particular way.

The electoral reforms of the late-Georgian and Victorian eras were largely a matter of fixing such problems in elections which were previously highly corrupt as a result of voting being done in public. It would be a pity to see those improvements partly reversed for a bit of convenience.

On the other hand, making voting a bit more convenient has some merits. I don't know how many votes are lost as a result of people not being able to make it to the polling station on the day of an election but it must be quite a few. It seems to me that the system of early voting used in some US states where, for a week or so before an election, people can cast their votes in a limited number of locations (usually just town halls, I think) makes for a good compromise.

There's something to be said for the slightly formal ceremony of voting at a polling station to set serious democracy off from reality television shows.

If any form of e-voting is introduced then it should, I think, be limited to non-legally binding referendums (opinion surveys, basically) for quite a long time.