The case for taking voting to the online environment

October 30, 2012 | By Jim Stovall | Filed in: news, Voting.

Ori Eisen, founder, chairman and chief innovation officer of online security firm 41st Parameter, makes the case for taking voting online in this Gigaon blog post, It’s Time to Take the Election Online:

Obviously there are questions about implementation—some technical and some procedural—that need to be considered. Here are four big picture challenges, as well thoughts on possible ways to address them:

Voter Eligibility Voters would need to state their intention to vote via a device and register that device with election officials prior to using it to cast their ballot. As with early or absentee ballots, digital ballots would need to be cast within a specified time frame. Voters would also need to receive email or SMS confirmation that their vote has been received, in the event questions were to arise later.

Voter Verification Strong authentication would be needed to ensure each voter cast only one ballot. This could be accomplished with biometric security, two-factor authentication or device recognition/registration.

Device Verification There would also need to be a way to ensure a single device wasn’t responsible for an inordinate number of votes. Device recognition coupled with user verification or a device registry could limit the potential for this occurring.

Voter Privacy While ensuring an individual is casting only one vote and that a single device isn’t casting multiple votes, a very real and important concern is maintaining the secrecy of every voter’s ballot. One can imagine solutions (such as creating dual anonymized hashes, one for the voter and the other for the device, or encrypting voter information once the ballot is entered, etc.) that would allow a vote to be cast without tying it to a specific individual.

None of these issues are insuperable. On the contrary, with current technology and ingenuity they could be addressed and make digital voting a practical alternative. Which is also to say that for the near future it wouldn’t become a substitute for all current analog voting systems, as there will always be people that need or want the experience of going to their local polling station and casting their vote in person. Providing a simple, secure and readily available digital alternative  however just makes sense in this day and age.

We don’t use the technology we have for many reasons — mostly because “we’ve never done it that way.”

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