Hello On-line Voting, Good-bye Secret Ballot

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and his wife Melania Trump vote at PS 59 in New YorkSo according to some, I am a Luddite because I oppose electors voting through their Smartphones or computer. Nope. I have no problem with electronic voting. My problem with on-line voting is the end of the secret ballot.

The secret ballot was first introduced in the 1850s in Australia, then spread to the United States and Canada. Before the secret ballot, voters had to declare their vote publicly. Fights broke out and voters were bribed or paid for their vote. A man might not vote for the man of his choice because his employer could know.
It is interesting that with the coming of the secret ballot, the number of people voting did drop. But for what reason?
Sasha Issenberg in the Atlantic suggests it was due to the reduced social pressure of neighbours not knowing if a person voted.Abolish the Secret Ballot

What has this to do with on-line voting?
On-line voting involves a person using a pin number to enter the voting system on-line and cast their vote. The problem is not with the security of the computer system or the Smartphone (Hello Blackberry, the secure Smartphone). It is not even that someone could gather pin numbers and vote instead of the particular voter. That could be solved with a thumbprint, face recognition, test question or other methods.
It is the simple fact that a person can look over the voter’s shoulder or at their computer screen when they are casting their vote.
This means that, for instance, in a home, all members of a family could be forced to vote and vote a certain way by the member of the family who rules it economically. (I am trying to put this in a way that is not sexist or culturally insensitive)
Voters could be gathered together by an employer or landlord or powerful politician and made to vote a certain way. The bribery and fights would return. Elections could be sold.
And yes this is also possible with mailed in ballots that are becoming popular in rural areas.
If you don’t think this could happen today, I have one word for you, Robocalls.
The only way at this time to prevent abuse of the vote is to have people go to a polling place and vote in the privacy of the voting booth.
Do we want to increase people voting at the expense of free and fair elections? I vote “No”.

Voting in Early Canada

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4 responses to “Hello On-line Voting, Good-bye Secret Ballot

  1. Thank you for that sensible explanation. The question of e-voting came up in the Fair Vote mailing list a few days ago, and this was my response:

    One of the principles of our electoral systems is anonymity. Another
    principle is “One person, one ballot”, or singular voting. Both
    objectives are reasonably easy to do with paper ballots – hand out one
    ballot to a voter, then cross that voter’s name off the list. The vote
    cast is both anonymous and singular.

    But when people are allowed to vote anonymously on their home computer
    there’s no way to determine if they’re voting more than once. So to
    prevent multiple votes you’d have to track voters with a unique ID; but
    that can then be correlated with the vote cast, destroying anonymity.

    Fundamentally, anonymous and singular voting is not achievable through
    computerized at-home voting. In a report “Technology and the Voting
    Process” the conclusion of Elections Canada was that the integrity of
    electoral process is a cornerstone of our democracy, and a decision to
    move to electronic voting should not be made lightly, without much more
    study[1]. “Much more study” has not been done by our municipal government.

    And don’t get me started on the number of home computers that are
    infected with viruses, the number of people that are defrauded through
    identity theft, and the number of times government loses data from their
    laptops and thumb drives…

    –Bob.

    [1] pp. 58-60, “Technology and the Voting Process”, KPMG and Sussex
    Circle for Elections Canada, 1998.
    http://www.elections.ca/content.aspx?section=res&dir=rec/tech/tec&document=index&lang=e

    Fair Vote Canada Waterloo Region Chapter: http://fairvote.ca/waterlooregion
    FVCWRC Discussion Mailing List: http://listserv.thinkers.org/mailman/listinfo/fvc-wat-disc_listserv.thinkers.org

  2. Goodbye secret ballot and goodbye recount. How will we ever know if the count is correct if we can’t recount.

  3. Marg Mallory-Smyth

    I agree with you completely, Jane. Also from a financial point of view, why spend $300,000 for something only a few people will use on one day every four years. Better to spend the money on something everyone would use like infrastructure or other projects that would improve things for more people. I don’t feel that the expense is justified. Elections cost enough as it is.

  4. Pingback: PoliBlog » Blog Archive » E-voting Considered Harmful

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