On-line voting

Do we really want to trust on-line voting? Visibly counting ballot papers is a very transparent way of “doing a count”.

  • Watching the ballot boxes being delivered
  • Verifying that they are all delivered and have not been tampered with
  • Opening them in front of party representatives
  • Sorting them and verify them in front of party representatives
  • Counting them and bundling them in front of party representatives
  • Stacking up the vote and watching as the winner becomes apparent.

OK, on-line voting means you get a virtually instant result after the close of polls – at the potential cost of trust.  Elections are more important than X-Factor.

Far better to have a few hours (even a whole day) of counting actual ballot papers and get a result that is obviously not fiddled or subject to “system error”. Results can be challenged at the time and recounts quickly done (usually a candidate only asks for a check that bundles are in the right stack).

On-line voting means trusting the entire system.  The Americans have enough problems with their voting machines!   Ballot papers have a lot going for them.

Even STV elections – which usually require multiple counts – can be done “visibly” with paper ballots.  (The trick is not to hurry and to make sure that the continuing value of a transferred vote is correctly marked.)  Northern Ireland manages this for European Elections – and better than the Scots when they tried to scan votes to speed up the counting of their AV+ elections!  So it takes a day to elect a Parliament that will last for 1800 days – a small price for a transparent result that can be trusted.

Politicians think it is bad when we do not trust them – it will be far worse if we cease to trust the mechanism that elects them.

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