Parliament unanimously passed the Electoral (Administration) Amendment Bill (No 2) today, making some minor but necessary changes to our electoral administration. During the debate, Labour MP Chris Hipkins argued that we should be looking at introducing electronic voting. On Twitter, he asks for people’s thoughts on the issue.
I have just one: is he fucking mad?
The evidence from overseas is overwhelming: electronic voting can’t be trusted. The machines are black boxes. The software is proprietary. They may be run by people with partisan interests. And they’re hackable (not just in theory – in practice). There’s no way for the count to be audited, and no way to tell if the votes entered by voters are actually being recorded, or just sent to the bit bucket.
Electronic voting means putting elections, a vital part of our democratic infrastructure, in the hands of unaccountable, private entities, with poor security and no transparency. We’ll basically be relying on their goodwill that they won’t fix elections. Oh, and blind faith that they won’t leave a yawning security flaw allowing someone else to. As someone who takes democracy seriously, I don’t think that’s a very good idea.
I/S is thinking that the way the US did electronic voting is the only way. I have been pushing for some time that we should trial e-voting for one or more local body elections. Have the option to vote over the Internet, as well as a postal ballot. So no e-voting use of stand-alone voting machines – just use the Internet.
We do banking and tax over the Internet securely, and I am sure can do voting also. We even have a secure government login service which you can use to register companies etc.
And e-voting can be audit-able. Each person who votes can get an e-mail confirmation of how they voted. You could even audit a random sample of voters to ensure their record of voting matches the central record.
And one could have the code for the e-voting software released publicly, so that experts can verify that it is does what it is meant to do.
So I’m with Chris Hipkins. The time has come to at least be trialling e-voting. The logical opportunity is the 2013 local body elections.
UPDATE: The Government has responded to the Justice and Electoral Select Committee review of the 2010 local body elections. They have said:
- The Government will look at amending the Local Electoral Regulations 2001 to enable e-voting, with DIA to look into the merits and practicalities
- The Government will explore the option of making the Electoral Commission responsible for the oversight of local authority elections