For online voting: Why we should trial E-Voting
Ian Apperley is well known to many in the ICT industry as both participant and commentator. As part of a special feature on online voting, IITP asked Ian to put his thoughts together as to why online voting is a good thing and we should trial it in our upcoming local body elections.
Mark Zuckerberg once said "The biggest risk is not taking any risk… In a world that is changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks." There are many similar quotes that basically summed up say that it is better to have tried, and failed, than to never have tried at all.
Those against E-Voting don't want us to even try it. A self-appointed, small group of individuals has managed to convince several Councils that E-Voting is so dangerous, that it should never be attempted. They have told us that they know best, even though they have never attempted to build an E-Voting system themselves, and that we, the lesser knowledgeable should not try. Sadly, they convinced several councils of this argument by scaring them with anecdotes about the Death Star.
I will not defend the safety record of E-Voting since its first use in 1964 save to say that there is no evidence that it has caused a government to be usurped or replaced, even in places like Estonia, which certain foreign powers would dearly like to take control of.
In the fifty years that E-Voting has been around, there have been mistakes. I am not defending the safety of any computer system. Nothing is infallible. If you follow the anti E-Voting lobbyist's theory, they would see all sensitive computer systems switched off. Those that manage our banking, transport, aircraft (now connected to the Cloud in real-time), hospitals, doctors, tax, company information, rates, and a hundred other sensitive services.
What we see here is "inequitable theoretical versus practical risk" (thanks to a reader for this). For example, paper voting records are sent to insecure mail boxes, sometimes by the hundreds, are easily stolen and tampered with. Yet we vote this way without a second thought because it is an acceptable risk. Paper voting at a Local Body level is incredibly open to abuse.
E-Voting has proven verification methods and machine learning along with human controls that can reduce that risk significantly. As this is a trial we are going into, additional controls can be built in to ensure that the vote is not tampered with. A control set of voters could do both, paper and electronic, to provide a test that votes were not interfered with. It is a problem to be solved.
New Zealand is a country that trials new things. In the last four decades this has included areas in finance, health, and government. We have tried and delivered services that lead the world.
But we are being told that we shouldn't trial EVoting. What I can't understand is why? The argument that we know better than you and have decided that it is not possible sounds familiar. It sounds like those IT organisations that are dying because they can't move to a can do, service oriented attitude, and just keep saying "no" to their business sponsors.
My motivation for EVoting is simple. I am a big fan of New Zealand technology and I want to see it succeed. I think we can succeed at this, and if we can't, then at least we tried. Maybe if we get this right, it is something we can export to the rest of the world. We shouldn't let others make a decision to fail before we've even tried.
What does the IT Profession as a whole think? We asked them - results here.
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