Is Australia ready for an e-voting system?

Ahead of the WA State Election, we weigh up the benefits and disadvantages of a digital online voting system.

November 2, 2016
Written by
Courtney Erichetti
Published by
identity, biometrics, facial recognition, verification, online, digital, compliance, cyber security, recruitment, HR, human resources, credential theft, scam, fraud, identity theft, KYC, AML,
Is Australia ready for an e-voting system?
In March next year, WA residents will head to the polls again in the 2017 State General Election. Following questions regarding the most recent Federal Election, digital voting systems (e-voting) is once again in the spotlight. I had a look at some of the pros and cons associated with e-voting and whether or not it’s the next logical step or just too messy.

The Pros

Voting using mobile or digital device would definitely save a lot more time for the rest of us, as it is a bit of an inconvenience to do so at a polling location. Plus, I don’t know about you, but sometimes I accidentally muck it up and get very flustered. With an e-voting system, I would be able to fix any mistakes before I submit my vote to make sure it counts.

While getting our “democratic sausage in a bun” from the local polling station makes the process more palatable, e-voting would remove the need to even attend a polling station in the first place. Voters would be free to vote from wherever they are located across the globe. Results could be calculated instantly, reducing the need for polling stations and staff.

E-voting would also minimise the problem of absent voters if there was an automated copy for people to fill out. People who live in remote areas, travelling internationally, or people who are sick and disabled could all vote when it suits them.

The Cons

There is no denying that our digital online world is great, and using it to vote for elections and plebiscites would make the process much easier. But what if something were to go wrong and all votes that were cast during the election period were all lost?

“With electronic voting, whether online or on stand-alone voting machines, everything happens inside the invisible cave of computer memory. It’s impossible to see what’s going on at the time the votes are tallied. How can you know that the votes were counted correctly? You just have to trust the system.” - Stilgherrian, ABC News

Having no paper trail whatsoever would be a huge problem. Yet this sort of issue has already happened WITH a paper trail back in 2013 where 1375 Senate votes from Western Australia disappeared.

With that said, wouldn’t the accuracy of the vote count be more reliable with e-voting? By removing human error from the counting and handling of votes, trust in the voting process can be increased.

Voting and identity security becomes a big issue in a digital voting system as well. An article by Ian Chipman from Stanford University suggests a potential large-scale hack of the system.

“Suppose masses of emails get sent out to naive users saying the voting website has been changed and, after you submit your ballot and your credentials to the fake website, it helpfully votes for you, but changes some of the votes. You also have bots where millions of individual machines are controlled by a single person who uses them to send out spam.” Ian Chipman, Standford University

Along with this, identifying electors at the time of voting is a concern for an e-voting system. However, the current system, where voters are crossed off in a book, often without ID verification, has potential to be heavily frauded. A digital system that verifies users back to their government ID photos (driver’s license, passport), or employs biometric systems to verify that voters are verified,  could be a more secure and trusted process.

With the technology in existence today, there are already ways in which we can implement digital identification processes. The pros of e-voting could ensure that voters are more engaged, that the tally is more accurate, and that the process is more trusted. Although the risks associated with e-voting do exist, with no risk comes no reward.

Can e-voting be convenient AND safe? With the right mix of technology and security, I believe it can be.

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