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Norway Scraps Online Voting

Soulskill posted about three weeks ago | from the will-now-elect-officials-through-online-petitions-instead dept.

The Internet 139

An anonymous reader sends news that Norway will no longer experiment with online voting: [T]he trials have ended because, said the government, voters' fears about their votes becoming public could undermine democratic processes. Political controversy and the fact that the trials did not boost turnout also led to the experiment ending. In a statement, Norway's Office of Modernisation said it was ending the experiments following discussions in the nation's parliament about efforts to update voting systems. The statement said although there was "broad political desire" to let people vote via the net, the poor results from the last two experiments had convinced the government to stop spending money on more trials. ... A report looking into the success of the 2013 trial said about 70,000 Norwegians took the chance to cast an e-vote. This represented about 38% of all the 250,000 people across 12 towns and cities who were eligible to vote online. However, it said, there was no evidence that the trial led to a rise in the overall number of people voting nor that it mobilised new groups, such as young people, to vote.

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139 comments

What logic! (3, Funny)

AaronLS (1804210) | about three weeks ago | (#47335151)

What logic is this? We found that although nearly a third of mathematicians used electronic calculators when they were invented, the electronic calculators did not encourage previously non-mathematicians to be mathematicians, so we threw them all away.

Re:What logic! (0)

Blaskowicz (634489) | about three weeks ago | (#47335237)

It's just about voting! Becoming a voter is akin to making basic computations in your analogy Becoming a mathematician would be more like running for elections, getting elected and serving mandates successfully - and it has almost jack shit to do with electronic vs paper voting.

Re:What logic! (4, Insightful)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about three weeks ago | (#47335243)

No, more a matter of "we found no evidence that this new idea actually improved things, so we decided it wasn't worth spending more money experimenting with it".

Re:What logic! (3, Funny)

i kan reed (749298) | about three weeks ago | (#47335317)

Evidence-based governance is completely foreign to us Americans, you'll have to understand if some of us can't quite understand it.

Re:What logic! (3, Interesting)

mysidia (191772) | about three weeks ago | (#47335487)

Evidence-based governance is completely foreign to us Americans, you'll have to understand if some of us can't quite understand it.

It's not that I don't agree with evidence-based government. It's that I cannot agree with their conclusion that online voting cannot encourage greater overall turnout.

The fact that 38% of the people took a chance to e-Vote, strongly suggests that much of the population was happier casting their vote electronically, and 62% were either skeptical, unaware, or lacked the ability.

Extremely good results, arguing strongly in favor of e-Voting, I would say.

Re:What logic! (2)

i kan reed (749298) | about three weeks ago | (#47335515)

Well, it could just be politics, one or more political parties always benefits from lower turnouts in elections, and they could be in control and looking after their own interests. As I indicated, I'm American, and not Norwegian, and don't presume to know the nuance of the situation.

Re:What logic! (3, Informative)

FaxeTheCat (1394763) | about three weeks ago | (#47335551)

The problem was that the overall turnout did not increase. So 38% of those who would have voted anyway chose to do it electronically. As developing and maintaining a complex system that is used every second year would be quite expensive, along with privacy issues etc., making it a little more convenent to vote is just not a good enough reason. At least not at this time.

Re:What logic! (2)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about three weeks ago | (#47335773)

The problem was that the overall turnout did not increase.

Why is "higher turnout" a goal? Is their any evidence that countries with high voter turnout are better governed? Low voter turnout should mean that most people are generally satisfied with the government, and most political choices are closely clustered around the consensus opinion. Or it could mean that people feel the system is corrupted and their vote doesn't matter. In the latter case, changing the method of voting won't fix the problem.

Re:What logic! (3, Interesting)

FaxeTheCat (1394763) | about three weeks ago | (#47335843)

The goal of this test was to test technology and to check if easier access to voting would increase turnout.
If you test somethig for a specific purpose, then surely accepting the outcome cannot be a problem?

As for the reason for the low turnout, that is a mixed issue. At least we can now assume that access to voting facilities is not one of the problems. As for the country in question, a few reasons may be a generally high standard of living combined with no major fundamental differences between the political blocks. (I live in that country, and my family all vote.)

Re:What logic! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47336811)

Is their any evidence that countries with high voter turnout are better governed?

They're more democratic. Isn't that enough?

Re:What logic! (1)

John.Banister (1291556) | about three weeks ago | (#47339249)

Is their any evidence that countries with high voter turnout are better governed?

You could compare countries with compulsory voting [wikipedia.org] with their neighbors.

Re:What logic! (3, Interesting)

znrt (2424692) | about three weeks ago | (#47335875)

this could be it. i was involved in this experiment as a developer. i'd say that besides some specific flaws the experiment was a success. i do now know for sure and first hand that secure, private and verifiable evoting over inet is feasible, because we did it, never mind any particular quirks. i have to say i was never really sure, now i am. is it a priority? probably not. it is definitely an improvement and a good tool but for me there are many other issues that would need to be tackled first if democracy is to be taken seriously, voting electronically or on paper being just secondary. i can't help but also applaud the iniciative of those norse politicians who made this experiment possible, however i'm absolutely not confident in that opting out now accounts for minding that very same priorities.

Re:What logic! (2)

Rei (128717) | about three weeks ago | (#47336471)

So electronic voting is expensive but paper voting is cheap? Could you explain that logic?

The fewer people who go to polling stations, the fewer stations you need (at least in areas of at least moderate population density where driving distance would become a factor if there were fewer). There's an awfully lot of overhead behind polling stations, both before, during, and after the election.

Re:What logic! (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about three weeks ago | (#47336627)

There's an awfully lot of overhead behind polling stations, both before, during, and after the election.

There is? There's a little bit of equipment used every year, a fair number of boxes and a whole bunch of paper but not a truly epic amount, if we're honest (compare tax time, although I suppose there's a lot less paper in that of late) and aren't most of the employees volunteers?

Re:What logic! (1)

Rei (128717) | about three weeks ago | (#47336967)

I searched for figures and found that for the 2000 election alone, municipalities alone are estimated to have spent $1B on voting (not counting the registration side). Yes, I don't think that's an insignificant sum. Yes, I think software could be way, way cheaper.

Re:What logic! (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about three weeks ago | (#47337381)

Well, it certainly is a piece of money, but I think the $967 million America spent on fourth of July fireworks in 2012 speaks to the fact that it's not really that much. If we can blow that much every year on reminding ourselves how much freedom we have, I think we can spend that much actually voting for it. Also, if you just eliminate voter registration, and let anyone vote who seems to be able to vote, you'll still probably cut down on vote manipulation if you count illegal disenfranchisement, and you won't have to pay for it either.

Re:What logic! (1)

onkelonkel (560274) | about three weeks ago | (#47336927)

"There's an awfully lot of overhead behind polling stations" - Not so much. Around here polling stations are some folding tables in a church hall or school gym. We use paper ballots and cardboard ballot boxes. Total cost = pennies per voter.

Re:What logic! (2)

Luckyo (1726890) | about three weeks ago | (#47338241)

That's standard in all Nordics. Additionally people staffing the stations are mostly volunteers. Here in Finland for example, you find mostly elderly (former) political/democratic activists who find its their duty to show up and ensure country is democratic with some younger people with similar goals also in the mix.

As a result, most of the cost is logistics and paper trail. Pretty much everything else, such as buildings used, equipment used and so on is reused.

Re:What logic! (1)

mysidia (191772) | about three weeks ago | (#47338633)

We use paper ballots and cardboard ballot boxes. Total cost = pennies per voter.

Paper is expensive.... software should be thousandths of a penny per voter.

Re:What logic! (1)

HagbardMytrCeline (3481855) | about three weeks ago | (#47339125)

software should be thousandths of a penny per voter.

Not with the Norwegian governments track record of budget overruns in software projects. That, on top of the fact that all government/federal software projects, in any country, tend to cost at least ten times more than logic suggests they should to begin with.

Besides that, peoples votes not becoming public and the peoples trust in the ballot system where the main concerns in the decision to end the trials. In that respect, anyone slightly informed would stick to paper.

Re:What logic! (1)

GNious (953874) | about three weeks ago | (#47336975)

It's that I cannot agree with their conclusion that online voting cannot encourage greater overall turnout.

They didn't conclude it CANNOT - they concluded it DID NOT.

It may still be that it can, but they are disinclined to throw further money at it, at this point, given the absence of increased turnout.

Re:What logic! (1)

Luckyo (1726890) | about three weeks ago | (#47338219)

Note that your argument is the same as the argument of creationists: "I cannot agree that conclusion I prepared doesn't match the facts on the ground".

Re:What logic! (2)

AaronLS (1804210) | about three weeks ago | (#47336491)

38% of voters considered it an improvement if they opted for that method over the other(that's not to assume their outcome experience was better). Probably in Netflix's beginning their subscriber base was only people who already watched movies, and simply found it more convenient. They may not have initially turned non-movie watchers into movie watchers. Obviously that wasn't Netflix's goal metric, but the point being that the preference 38% people showed could be an indicator that it could me marketable to non-voters to turn them into voters.

Sometimes your goal metric isn't realized during trials, but you can gauge user satisfaction/preference as an indication of its potential. I would say getting 38% during a trial is pretty huge. Usually when you are trying to get people on board with something new it can be much more challenging. With marketing they might increase voter turnout. Obviously you have to look at the feasibility of it, and the cost is certainly a valid decision point. I just think it's a little silly to focus on one metric and call it failure based on such a narrow slice. If the cost-benefit doesn't meet your threshold and you want to bring to an end, fine, but that doesn't mean it is a failure!

Plenty of advancements faltered on their first outing before their time because there weren't enough driving factors in place to tip the cost-benefit ratio. Some of the first hybrid trials were followed by automakers saying that it was a failure and that they'd never make one, and some of those same automakers are making them today. Never speak in terms of absolutes or history+future will make you look like an idiot. Darn, that statement was an absolute.

Re:What logic! (5, Insightful)

arth1 (260657) | about three weeks ago | (#47337837)

User satisfaction isn't the goal. A fair democracy is.
And internet based voting comes with some quite serious problems in that regard. In particular, someone can observe and force family members to vote a certain way..

Unless the advantages more than make up for the disadvantages, cancelling the trials is the proper thing to do to protect the fairness and privacy of the voting system.

Re:What logic! (1)

Luckyo (1726890) | about three weeks ago | (#47338257)

This is in fact one of the biggest problems of online voting. It's very difficult to force someone to vote a certain way at a polling station, as there is no way to check what the other person voted for.

It's very easy to check what the other person voted for in electronic voting process. That makes intimidation, bribing and so on viable tools for collecting votes.

Re:What logic! (4, Insightful)

FaxeTheCat (1394763) | about three weeks ago | (#47335249)

To put it simple: There is a cost with no benefit.

The cost is real money, and the benefit would be increased turnout. Without an increased turnout, there is no benefit. The fact that some people who (most likely) are already voters use the online voting is not a reason to spend a lot of money on the system.

The fact that voters have no way of verifying that the vote is anonymous also contribute to the decision.

As most people live within a 10 minute walk form the polling stations, adding electronic voting is not really important at all.

Re:What logic! (3, Interesting)

mlts (1038732) | about three weeks ago | (#47335345)

Another problem with electronic voting is the complexity. Paper ballots are simple. A mark or a hole punched through some wood pulp.

With electronic voting, there are so many vulnerabilities. From voting machines that will change one's vote to Kodos before it even gets registered on the machine, to votes being switched in transit, there are no real ways to actually protect that info from a determined, well-heeled intruder. Paper trails are still forgable, but we have had thousands of years dealing with paper, and it requires a definite physical presence to alter results.

This isn't to say it cannot be done, but it would require a cryptographic infrastructure from a dedicated smart card that the voter has, to cryptography at every link (so votes added/subtracted from a county would be detected)... and all this assuming the hardware maker didn't add their backdoors.

Maybe NYC is right... time to go back to mechanical voting machines or at least pen and pencil.

Re:What logic! (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | about three weeks ago | (#47335451)

There's also the political issues with voting machines. There was a video of a guy exploiting a touch screen vulnerability to show Obama votes getting changed to Romney here. Basically, with some touch screens, the edge of the screen is odd, or using the edge of your finger produces odd results. My phone, for example, will often register a touch in the center-right of the keyboard if I try to hit backspace--which is in the lower-right corner of the fucking screen--if I graze the edge of the screen. SO there was a video [youtube.com] of a guy showing it's impossible to vote for Obama, by using the side of his finger (the hard edge that folds over the nail) to poke the edge of the screen at the edge of the Obama checkbox.

My extensive experience with touch screens immediately raised the question: why aren't you poking the checkbox with your fingertip, like a normal person? Why the edge of your finger against the side of the checkbox along the edge of the screen? Why poking in the exact same way in the exact same spot?

Re:What logic! (2)

FaxeTheCat (1394763) | about three weeks ago | (#47335625)

There's also the political issues with voting machines

Just to clear this one up: In the Norwegian tests, there were no dedicated voting machines. The voters used their own computers, voting from home. Using dedicated voting machines instead of paper was never an option.

Re:What logic! (1)

znrt (2424692) | about three weeks ago | (#47336223)

Just to clear this one up: In the Norwegian tests, there were no dedicated voting machines. The voters used their own computers, voting from home. Using dedicated voting machines instead of paper was never an option.

you are wrong or lying. there was a "virtual" voting machine implementation. it was not used, like a bunch of other funny stuff, but it always was an option, that's the reason it was fucking implemented in the first place. you can look it up in the sourcecode since it is public. who the fuck are you anyway spilling all this bullshit?

Re:What logic! (3, Funny)

Rei (128717) | about three weeks ago | (#47336489)

And the award for most inexplicably angry reaction goes to....

Re:What logic! (1, Troll)

znrt (2424692) | about three weeks ago | (#47336945)

And the award for most inexplicably angry reaction goes to....

oh please, i don't merit this. i wasn't at all angry, just calling out bullshit. nothing personal.

Re:What logic! (2)

FaxeTheCat (1394763) | about three weeks ago | (#47335601)

From voting machines

There are no voting machines involved, as the online voting was done from the voters own PC. There is already systems in place in Norway to ensure user authentication (used for filign tax returns etc...), so any issue would be with the central systems. In its simplest form, it is a question of trust.

Re:What logic! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47335845)

There's no more reason to trust that your paper ballot is being counted correctly than your electronic ballot. People just trust tangible things even though they're not more reliable.

Re:What logic! (1)

FaxeTheCat (1394763) | about three weeks ago | (#47335913)

Any system relies on a certain amount of trust, but a lot more people are involved in a paper ballot. The votes are counted locally, and all the numbers are available online. The paper ballots are kept in case there is a reason for a re.count.
That means to corrupt such a system an entity would need to control a significant number of people. That is a lot more difficult than to fix a centralized electronic system.

Re:What logic! (1)

compro01 (777531) | about three weeks ago | (#47335989)

There's no more reason to trust that your paper ballot is being counted correctly than your electronic ballot.

Sure there is. Up here in Canada, the counting of the ballots is observed by representatives of each candidate that wishes to send one. Unless you want to claim that all the candidates are in on it (in which case you're screwed regardless), it's decidedly difficult to mess with the counting process.

Re:What logic! (2)

Rei (128717) | about three weeks ago | (#47336611)

There's countless ways, with varying levels of likelihood depending on the details of the system. Party operatives can infiltrate the other party to get counted as voters. Vote counters could be paid off or blackmailed. Ballots can be disappeared before they get to the counters and the voters listed as not having voted. Premarked ballots can be made to arrive from voters who didn't actually vote. Machines can cast false votes. People can be tricked into choosing the wrong candidate. Recorded precinct totals can be changed. Recorded district totals can be changed. Absentee ballots can be "never received". Provisional ballots are even easier to disappear. Or you can just rule them invalid without ever having to explain yourself. Voters can be kept from the polls due to hundreds of tactics, including intimidation, limited voting hours, incorrectly listed voting hours, unexpectedly early closings, bad information about where the station is, inaccurate reporting as to where a person is registered to vote, and so forth. And of course votes can be bought, sold, or pressured just as easily, especially nowadays in the age of cell phone cameras.

Yes, I think it's disingenous to pretend that internet voting is the only system where there are challenges. And most of the things people often present as intractable problems actually have a number of very reasonable solutions.

Millions of people every day trust their entire life's savings to online banking and investing. Yet we can't choose a freaking school commissioner on the internet because that's insecure? Which do you think most people care more about?

Re:What logic! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47337549)

I don't get your argument. Almost all the issues you mentioned with paper voting can basically be spotted by a single person standing around and keeping their eyes open.
Solutions might exist for issues with internet voting, but probably less than 1% of the population can understand how it even works, and even fewer have any chance of having the slightest idea if it actually is safe.
Asking people to vote by internet is asking them to blindly trust a absolute minority.
Why not just go all the way and just trust one person and make them benevolent dictator for life?
Unless you can make internet voting work without requiring complete, blind trust by the majority of the voters, please stop that nonsense about it being a suitable replacement.

Re:What logic! (1)

Luckyo (1726890) | about three weeks ago | (#47338293)

Let me help you. Are you familiar with concept of "voter intimidation" and why it doesn't work at polling stations?

Scenario: You are a part of a company. Your boss tells you to vote a certain way or face problems at work. You have no other good places to work and you have no way of proving he said that.

In current situation, this is impossible for said boss to enforce. You can tell him you will vote the way he wants, and even if he shows up at the polling station with you, there is no way for him to check which number you actually wrote on the ballot. Result: Voter intimidation not a viable tactic.
In a case of electronic voting from any PC terminal, all said boss needs to do is stand next to you as you vote. Result: Voter intimidation a viable tactic.

In a nutshell: electronic voting from uncontrolled environment has severe problems because of lack of anonymity compared to voting at polling station. If it presents no significant tangible advantages, it should absolutely be scrapped to avoid increasing democratic problems while presenting on clear democratic benefits.

Re:What logic! (1)

Rei (128717) | about three weeks ago | (#47338621)

It's like you didn't even read my post. Here, I'll just use blockquotes to respond.

You:

there is no way for him to check which number you actually wrote on the ballot

Me:

. And of course votes can be bought, sold, or pressured just as easily, especially nowadays in the age of cell phone cameras.

(I could also add "absentee voting", the old-fashioned way of vote buying)

You:

In a case of electronic voting from any PC terminal, all said boss needs to do is stand next to you as you vote.

Me:

most of the things people often present as intractable problems actually have a number of very reasonable solutions.

Me, elsewhere in greater specificity on this specific "intractable problem":

Approaches include things allowing voters to cast "test votes" or "dummy votes" that look just like regular votes, or letting voters vote as many times as they want but only counting the last one.

Is there anything else that my previous posts, or in fact spending about 15 seconds thinking about the problem, or taking the time to read about any actual implementations out there before commenting on the subject, can answer for you?

Re:What logic! (1)

Luckyo (1726890) | about three weeks ago | (#47338743)

In all Nordics, as far as I know, photographing your own ballot after it has been filled is illegal for very reason. It made national news when some people took selfies with their ballots and several professors of law and history did a pretty detailed explanation on why these laws are in place (history of democracy and massive levels of abuse related to voter intimidation).

Re:What logic! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47338997)

Let voters change their mind and recast a new vote. Problem solved. Unless there is someone behind your back 24/24... of course.

Re:What logic! (2)

RobinH (124750) | about three weeks ago | (#47335803)

Electronic voting (i.e. voting machines) has its own set of serious issues, but this is about Online voting (i.e. from a home/office computer) which adds way more problems than just electronic voting, not the least of which is vote-selling. How might an employer treat two employees differently if one of them could prove that he/she voted the way the boss liked? What about a spouse? Why not just sell it to the highest bidder?

Re:What logic! (1)

Rei (128717) | about three weeks ago | (#47336715)

not the least of which is vote-selling

1. Proof of vote is completely different from online voting. You can have online systems without proof of vote. You can have paper systems with proof of vote.
2. Proveable vote selling already exists. Very few polling places ban cell phones with cameras.
3. Systems can and in fact already do exist to allow a voter to prove to themselves that they voted for a particular candidate but not to others. Approaches include things allowing voters to cast "test votes" or "dummy votes" that look just like regular votes, or letting voters vote as many times as they want but only counting the last one.

Re:What logic! (1)

arth1 (260657) | about three weeks ago | (#47337951)

2. Proveable vote selling already exists. Very few polling places ban cell phones with cameras.

That is not an issue in the system Norway uses, with manually marked paper ballots in an envelope. You can take as many pictures and movies as you like within the secrecy of the voting booth, but not outside it in the election locale.
Nothing prevents you from filling out two ballots, and film just doing one of them. What goes in the urn, no one can say.

Re:What logic! (1)

Rei (128717) | about three weeks ago | (#47338629)

That was just an example. Let's pick another one - say, absentee voting? Does Norway allow that, and if so, how do they prevent vote buying with absentee votes?

Re:What logic! (1)

Cochonou (576531) | about three weeks ago | (#47338975)

I don't know how they do it in Norway, but I can tell you how they do it in France: you cannot mail a ballot. You need to designate a proxy to vote for you on election day. This proxy can only collect a very limited number of mandates. This prevents vote buying on any significant scale...

Re:What logic! (1)

znrt (2424692) | about three weeks ago | (#47336163)

The fact that voters have no way of verifying that the vote is anonymous also contribute to the decision.

paper voters have no way of verifying that either, you are simply talking nonsense.

by the way increased turnout is not at all the benefit, you not only do know nothing about the system, you fail to grasp what democracy is about. if turnout is a matter of comfort or marketing, democracy is worth a crap.

the central aspect about evoting is that it can drastically improve the technical capacity of governments to submit stuff for question. turnout is a totally different issue which should depend on the quality of citicenship, not on user experience in some process. you promptly bought the politician's simplistic explanations = you have no clue -> stop talking nonsense.

Re:What logic! (1)

FaxeTheCat (1394763) | about three weeks ago | (#47336397)

paper voters have no way of verifying that either, you are simply talking nonsense.

When I vote, I pick a list for the party I vote for, and put it (unmarked) into the ballot box where it is mixed with a significant number of other similar lists. There is no way to track exactly what piece of paper I put in that box. So my vote is anonymous.

by the way increased turnout is not at all the benefit, you not only do know nothing about the system, you fail to grasp what democracy is about. if turnout is a matter of comfort or marketing, democracy is worth a crap.

The aim of this test was to measure if there would be an increased turnout. By the design criterium, the test was no success. As I did not create the design cirteria for the test, I can hardly be blamed if the test used irrelevant criteria?

Re:What logic! (1)

znrt (2424692) | about three weeks ago | (#47337267)

paper voters have no way of verifying that either, you are simply talking nonsense.

When I vote, I pick a list for the party I vote for, and put it (unmarked) into the ballot box where it is mixed with a significant number of other similar lists. There is no way to track exactly what piece of paper I put in that box. So my vote is anonymous.

you wish. you have no way to verify it you are actually have privacy while picking, or if your envelope is not traceable. sure this example is extreme, the point is that it equally applies to electronic voting. in neither case absolute certainty is possible. specific and documented procedures were in place in the evoting experiment to guarrantee voter privacy and anonimity, and they are public. you are welcome to study and challenge them. or else ... so what is your point?

The aim of this test was to measure if there would be an increased turnout. By the design criterium, the test was no success. As I did not create the design cirteria for the test, I can hardly be blamed if the test used irrelevant criteria?

sorry, i'm really far fom angry, just baffled. who told you that? this was the first time (not really, we're actually talking about the second run of the same experiment, the first was in 2011, but on a smaller scale) that full evoting over the wild wild web was attempted on binding elections ever, with privacy, anonymity and verifiability. the real test was if this was at all possible and practical with present technology. i turns out it is. it's complex, it has issues, there's a lot of room for improvement but it works, it can be carried out and verified. participation was just another measure amongst many others ... i dunno, it may have been trumpeted in some official statement but your common sense alone should have sufficed for you to realize that even if that were the primary objective, results of a single pilot test between different types of elections in different contexts and different population sizes and with years of difference would have been far from conclusive if not merely anecdotical in all but very extreme scenarios.

the aim of this experiment was to see if this difficult and heavily debated stunt is at all feasible, and how it works out. it was possible because some guys just thought it was worth to try, and because some other guys thought they could handle it. many conclusions in lots of areas can be drawn from it, and more experiments will be necessary. just looking at participation comparing to some other random election is not only simplistic but makes no sense.

the difference now (that the system has proved feasible) is that current guys just don't find it interesting, necessary or worth the effort. that's just ok, but the talk about turnout is definitely just an excuse.

Great poster. Would read again. A++ (1)

Rei (128717) | about three weeks ago | (#47336887)

the central aspect about evoting is that it can drastically improve the technical capacity of governments to submit stuff for question.

Thank you - this is a key, often overlooked aspect. I find E-voting on regular elections to really be more of a "pilot stage" on the road to true democracy. Or, what I think is an important difference, toward true representative (liquid) direct democracy, wherein you can choose someone (or multiple people, for different types of issues) to vote for you (and they can forward delegate the votes onward if they choose), and you can change / override them at will. A delegate could be some estimeed professor of constitutional law, they could be be the head of some NGO that you support, it could be your cousin Chris who "tends to follow this stuff and seems to make sense when he talks about it", whoever you want.

The problem if you don't allow representatives of any kind then on low-turnout issues (some of which will be *very* low turnout), pressure groups can have undue influence. For example, if 90% of a town's residents are environmentally conscious but there's some obscure zoning bill that would allow a sensitive area to be turned into a chemical plant down the road, and the company called on all its employees to get out and vote for it, even though they only make up a tiny percentage of the population, they still stand a chance of getting the bill through because most people don't follow every little issue that comes up for a vote. By allowing for delegates, you never face this situation. But if someone feels betrayed by their representative, or goes through a political philolosophy change, or whatever, they can swap them out immediately, or override them on a particular issue.

And I've heard people complain about direct democracy saying that it's "mob rule" and would have negative views on minority rights. But *all* democracy has that problem. Which is why you don't leave the job of safeguarding rights to the public, you leave that to the courts. The court system is the balance to the tyrrany of the majority, and needs to be maintained as such.

Re:What logic! (1)

Luckyo (1726890) | about three weeks ago | (#47338271)

There is one severe issue with online voting. It doesn't occur in a controlled environment. As a result, it's possible to check what other person actually voted for. This enables tactics like voter intimidation and bribery, something that is not viable at polling stations, because at polling station you can say you voted for one politician, and actually have voted for another.

There is no way for anyone check. Voting is anonymous. All it takes to check who you voted for electronically is to sit next to you as you vote. If you think this isn't much of a problem, consider your average family with an abusive father figure who has strong political beliefs in far right nazi party.

Re:What logic! (1)

Rei (128717) | about three weeks ago | (#47338651)

There is one severe issue with online voting. It doesn't occur in a controlled environment. As a result, it's possible to check what other person actually voted for.

In Straw-Man Voting Systems internet voting software, you're absolutely right!

Meanwhile, in the non-straw-man case, this is a well recognized problem with dozens of easy solutions which anyone spending 15 seconds thinking about the problem could solve. For example, Estonia lets people vote as many times as they want, either in person or on the computer, only the last one counts, and in-person always overrides electronic. So unless you're literally holding crowds hostage all day until the election is over, no, that's inapplicable. And if you're holding crowds hostage to control their voting preference, that's no difference from holding a crowd of opposing voters hostage and not letting them vote in any other system.

Another example solution is letting people cast "test votes" or "dummy votes" which look exactly like real votes, but aren't tallied. The user knows whether they're logged in to cast a test/dummy vote because they know what information they chose at the registrar's office when they registered, but not only does the "buyer" not see a difference, but there's no way that the user can even prove it to them if they wanted to. They can *say* "this is my real account", but the "buyer" has to take them on their word.

These are just two examples among many. Meanwhile, in traditional voting someone can just buy off / force a person to submit an absentee paper ballot for whoever they want, or have them snap a cell phone shot in the polling booth.

Re:What logic! (1)

Luckyo (1726890) | about three weeks ago | (#47338737)

You don't need to hold the person hostage. You just need to take away their electronic id card for the rest of the day.

This isn't a strawman. This is a real threat, and something that has significant history of happening in the past with democracy. Please stop pretending that "doing stuff with computers is always better" and actually study the history behind the issue.

Re:What logic! (1)

MacTO (1161105) | about three weeks ago | (#47335339)

Calculators didn't present the risk of undermining mathematics. (Some people suggested that calculators would reduce people's proficiency at arithmetic, but it calculators didn't create invalid results.) Electronic voting does run the risk of undermining democracy. Even if the systems were secure with respect to voter privacy and vote tampering, the mere suspicion could influence people not to vote to change their vote or the question the results of an election.

Re:What logic! (1)

kyrsjo (2420192) | about three weeks ago | (#47337129)

I think the strongest argument against home-PC-voting is that secrecy of the vote is not protected, as someone (husband/wife/boss/religious leader/...) could force you to vote against your own conviction.

Re:What logic! (1)

LynnwoodRooster (966895) | about three weeks ago | (#47338283)

Likewise with mail-in voting. It should be rare, and you should have to request it prior to every election. It should never be the default (or, as is the case in several States the only) option.

Re:What logic! (1)

AaronLS (1804210) | about three weeks ago | (#47336285)

These are all valid points. I was not implying that mathematics is anything like voting, nor was I presenting an opinion for or against online voting, nor was I trying to imply that online voting is the same caliber of breakthrough as the electronic calculator.

I was merely poking fun at the logic/reasoning presented in the summary of why they considered it a failure. You can list 1000 valid reasons why online voting is a bad idea, that doesn't change the humor of the particular logic presented in the summary :)

Not everything has a technical fix... (4, Insightful)

gb (8474) | about three weeks ago | (#47335177)

So, given a reasonably small country with a population relatively well concentrated into population centres and good connectivity, turnout for voting does not seem to be strongly limited by access to polls.... yes, well, perhaps the solution is not addressing the real problem ?

Re:Not everything has a technical fix... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47335343)

No, everything has a technical fix, but sometimes the level of the best solution is far less technical than you might like.

Re:Not everything has a technical fix... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47335677)

People want to have their say on common issues and so influence the decisions and regulation, like we do here at /. were all comments are serious and well-thought-out. Implementation of such citizen-government interaction system is best done electronically due to excessive number of issues. In elections, there is usually only one issue to solve at a time and no space for opinions and comments, unless voting for Donald Duck can be considered such.

Wait, trials? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47335197)

I thought I saw Euro-Slashdotters criticizing the US for still having physical ballots and talking up how Norway has moved to completely online voting. I vaguely remember that everyone who responded to those criticisms with the same concerns listed in this story was called some very nasty names.

Now, whether you excuse me or not, I'll start happily citing Norway as supporting evidence that physical, anonymous ballots are the only way to have an election.

Re:Wait, trials? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47335271)

My guess is you might be thinking of a Baltic state: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E... [wikipedia.org]

Re:Wait, trials? (1)

FaxeTheCat (1394763) | about three weeks ago | (#47335293)

Norway never had general online voting. Less than 10% of the population were part of the tests.

Re:Wait, trials? (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47335499)

I thought I saw Euro-Slashdotters criticizing the US for still having physical ballots

You seem to have thought wrong. All the criticism I've seen is Europeans asking why the US finds it necessary to invest in mechanical ("hanging chads") and electronic ("whoops it voted for the other guy", "whoops we got hacked") voting machines when we're doing just fine with pencil, paper and humans counting. Europe (The EU27) just had European elections where the entire ballot was almost entirely done with people scratching graphite onto dried wood pulp. Somehow, we managed.

Re:Wait, trials? (1)

kyrsjo (2420192) | about three weeks ago | (#47337179)

You're wrong.

In Norway, the standard system is that you get into a private voting booth, which is stocked with ballots for different parties. You may if you wish rearrange this ballot (cross out candidates etc. using a normal pen), before you put the ballot in a closed envelope. You take this envelope, together with an ID, to the ballot box, show the ID and get crossed off the list, and put the envelope in the ballot box.

It is also possible to cast the vote a few weeks earlier at some locations (local government offices, universities, embassies/consulates etc.), basically using the same system except that the protocol (the list which you are crossed off from) is electronic.

Finally it is possible to mail in a ballot (you need not use the official forms, it is acceptable to write the name of your favourite party on a sheet of paper) if you are living abroad, but the process is somewhat complicated. This probably corresponds closest to the electronic system.

Only in Kenya. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47335211)

Forget norway
Kenyaaaaa
Oh Kenyaaaa

Re:Only in Kenya. (0)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | about three weeks ago | (#47335381)

Why mod down? Kenya is where the giraffes are. And the zebra.

Re:Only in Kenya. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47335417)

and a high tech voting fiasco.

Concerns about online voting (5, Insightful)

RobinH (124750) | about three weeks ago | (#47335255)

I'm surprised there isn't more concern about the serious and fundamental problems with online voting [contactandcoil.com] .

That blog post makes two points, one about vote selling and one about security. I don't see how any online voting system could ever stop you from being able to sell your vote, and that was one of the major reasons for a secret ballot. That pretty much makes online-voting a non-starter right there.

Re:Concerns about online voting (0)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47335333)

so between the choices of selling my vote or voting for a sold politician!! i too would sell my vote... hmmm perhaps thats the venue the corps should be going for.

Re:Concerns about online voting (2)

fph il quozientatore (971015) | about three weeks ago | (#47335693)

Indeed. Selling your vote is like cutting out the middleman.

Re:Concerns about online voting (1)

Ceriel Nosforit (682174) | about three weeks ago | (#47336597)

A vote-selling union to counter-act party politics? I like the way you think!

Re:Concerns about online voting (1)

RobinH (124750) | about three weeks ago | (#47335749)

Well I think the point is to protect the other voters from the ones who would sell their vote (and the people who would buy them).

Re:Concerns about online voting (1)

kyrsjo (2420192) | about three weeks ago | (#47337193)

I think we don't have as much problems with corrupt politicians as the US. There are also many more parties to choose from, and governements are typically coalitions of 2-3 parties.

Re:Concerns about online voting (0)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47335383)

Today, as any other day when anybody brings any form of electronic voting up in an internet forum, we learn that nerds and cryptography enthusiasts do not understand voting systems whatsoever.

Re:Concerns about online voting (2)

RobinH (124750) | about three weeks ago | (#47335721)

Just to be clear (even though you may be trolling), we're talking about online voting here, not electronic voting. I do believe that electronic voting (i.e. with voting machines in a private booth) might be able to work, but it still has to generate a paper ballot which you then insert into a cardboard box on the way out. The only difference to a paper and pencil ballot is that it should provide a way of tabulating them really fast, but there still has to be a way to do a manual recount (and there should be manual recounts at a random sampling of polling stations every time).

Re:Concerns about online voting (1)

Joe Gillian (3683399) | about three weeks ago | (#47335839)

The best system for voting I've seen is the one my town uses. They use paper ballots and black marker, and the ballots are fed through a glorified scanner (similar to the ones used for standardized testing) which automatically counts the votes. The machine even automatically puts the ballots in a box so that there is a paper trail of the original ballots. The good part about these is that they're very easy to set up, much lighter than the old mechanical voting machines, and there's no need for instructions.

Re:Concerns about online voting (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | about three weeks ago | (#47335885)

We also learn that election officials do not understand security and cryptography whatsoever.

Re:Concerns about online voting (0)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47335695)

People just don't give a damn.

I guess it's the same 'if you haven't done anything wrong, you don't have anything to hide..' idea that a lot of regular folks have; unless they see a clear and direct effect on their personal well-being and liberties in re. the pursuit of happiness (i.e. material wealth), the world can go to hell in a hand basket ;-)

Re:Concerns about online voting (1)

amaurea (2900163) | about three weeks ago | (#47336415)

I agree with your concerns about selling your vote. But I do think it's possible to design a system that makes vote-selling worthless, though it would be less convenient than normal online voting, and would still involve some physical visits to the voting booth, just not as often. Basically, every N years you would visit the voting locales in person and draw any number of random numbers on slips of paper or similar. You choose one of these random numbers and copy it to a new slip of paper which you put in a sealed envelope and submit just like you would during normal physical voting. That random number is now a pseudonym that can be used to submit online votes for the next period. The other numbers are basically decoys to make selling such numbers harder.

When voting online with this, each vote would be signed with the same number. Crucially, the same response would be given no matter whether the number matches a registered one or not: "your vote has been received" or similar. If somebody is looking over your shoulder, you can just type a wrong code, and your vote will be invalid, but look just as correct to the person observing you.

Since you can draw an arbitrary number of random numbers in the voting locale, but only one is correct, selling these numbers should be worthless too, since you have no way of proving that the number you're selling is the one you actually registered, and a buyer can't ask for "all of them" because he can't know how many numbers you got. Though.. people are lazy, so many people would only keep the one they actually used, I guess.

Of course, this doesn't do anything to solve the problem of botnets etc., which I think is a scary problem, which could put a lot of political power in the hands of botnet operators and those who buy their services.

Re:Concerns about online voting (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | about three weeks ago | (#47337497)

Sounds complicated. Just finished a provincial election here, and paper voting makes things so much simpler. Walk 5 minutes down the road to the nearest school. Present voter registration card and ID, or proof of address (bank statement, etc.) and ID, get your ballot, fill it out, drop it in the box, walk home. It would probably be at least as complicated to do it online, and I still would feel less assured that my vote was being counted correctly. Total time to vote by paper was like 15 minutes.

Re:Concerns about online voting (1)

3h (309321) | about three weeks ago | (#47336909)

Use Estonian system.
So you can sell your vote. So what? After "selling" your vote you can always change your vote.
Easy to manipulate? Use smart-card external reader with numpad. Or mobile ID voting when the vote is made from PC but PIN is inserted from phone. It is quite dificult to simultaneously hack both PC and phone and know the connection between them.

If you aren't going to vote.. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47335313)

If you aren't going to vote, then making voting available electronically (whether over the internet, or via digital voting booths) isn't going to suddenly change you into a voter. People don't vote because they are disenfranchised or disillusioned with the political system. FIX your political system, and more people will vote.

Or do what Australia does, and actually fine people who don't vote (although frankly, I'd rather you abstain, than vote without being educated about who you are voting for). http://www.aec.gov.au/faqs/voting_australia.htm

And for those in the US, get the massive money OUT of politics, and your system will self-correct.

Re:If you aren't going to vote.. (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | about three weeks ago | (#47335523)

Wow. So not wanting to elect any of those motherfuckers is not a valid reason.

You want advice? Escalate to force.

Re:If you aren't going to vote.. (1)

Mashiki (184564) | about three weeks ago | (#47336133)

Or do what Australia does, and actually fine people who don't vote

Dictatorships world around congratulate you on your fine despotic tendencies.

Re:If you aren't going to vote.. (1)

kyrsjo (2420192) | about three weeks ago | (#47337213)

You can probably still vote blank.

Negative Vote Button (4, Interesting)

tippe (1136385) | about three weeks ago | (#47335413)

I bet you they could have improved voter turnout if they had introduced a negative vote button, like the "Thumbs Down" button on youtube. Sometimes you just don't know who to vote for, but would be glad to use your vote as a form of protest, and to send a well-deserved message to some cretinous politician or political party.

Now if Washington would only stop by mail voting (0)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47335447)

On-line voting has proven to have no benefit. By-mail voting on the other hand has proven to be completely negative. It greatly enhances the ability for the unscrupulous to cast fraudulent votes (example, people following the mail truck to collect ballots to vote and send in their own way), to ignore votes from voters they don't like (my 2004 ballot was found in a box under a table four years later), or to identify how particular voters are voting (just check the envelop on the way in). Every thing the Norwegian voters feared happening has happened here in Washington. Also, with mail in voting there are no id's so there is no need to be a citizen or eligible to vote or even be alive and breathing. Sure, they say that is taken care of by checking the signatures on the outside of the envelopes, but that is done months after the election and with no way of pulling a ballot even if they did find a problem, and when the signature doesn't match, all that happens is they send a letter and ask if you want to give them a new signature. Ignore it and nothing happens. Yes, our civil rights are being violated by not being allowed to vote in a free and fair election. Thank goodness the Norwegian government was able to recognize the issues and take action to do something about it. Here, they just smile and pretend everything is all hunky-dory.
 

Moral of the story.... (1)

Lumpy (12016) | about three weeks ago | (#47335635)

No matter how easy you make something, Lazy people will still be lazy.

A smart move (3, Informative)

Albanach (527650) | about three weeks ago | (#47335729)

Over a decade ago, there was a GNU project [gnu.org] for internet voting. With no financial incentive, the driving force was a belief that there would be a benefit in making voting easier. The project was abandoned after they realized how difficult creating a secure, reliable and anonymous internet voting system actually is.

The founder of the project quotes Bruce Schneier as saying, "a secure Internet voting system is theoretically possible, but it would be the first secure networked application ever created in the history of computers."

Of course, if someone here wants to show their credentials and explain why Schneier is wrong, I'm sure many of us would love to hear their reasoning.

Re:A smart move (0)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47336125)

I'm certainly not disagreeing with Bruce Schneier here but would like to point out that 10 years is a long time on the internet. We didn't even have Bitcoin back then.

Vote buying, voter intimidation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47335869)

The big problem, IMHO, with this sort of thing, and mail in votes, is that when voting takes place outside an observed voting booth, you can't guarantee an anonymous vote. You run the risk of your favorite group of goons showing up at someone's home to 'help' them vote 'correctly' and hold them accountable for doing so - i.e threaten them. If I have to vote where nobody can see me mark my ballot, it's harder to threaten me (or bribe me) for my vote.

Wrong election results (0)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47336595)

Maybe they just decided that since the election result didnt please the ruling party, it was safer to scrap the system?

If they wanted to increase the turnout a certain method would be to make voting mandatory as is done in Belgium.
Belgium reglarly enjoys voter turnout in the 90% range (http://www.idea.int/vt/countryview.cfm?id=21)
Too bad Belgium also happens to be the country with worst record for forming a government. I think they came close to 600 days without actual government in place..but that's more related to having two distinct national groups that dont like one-another too much, rather than having mandatory elections.

Oh by the way, in Estonia e-voting is a regular thing now with 4 elections successfully completed since 2005, the latest one 2014 EU parliament elections (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electronic_voting_in_Estonia). The opposition who's electorate is mainly voting on paper crys wolf on security every chance they get but so far a successful proven attack on e-voting has yet to take place...

A good outcome no matter the reason (1)

Tangential (266113) | about three weeks ago | (#47336717)

Give the state of today's technology, no form of electronic voting can be considered reasonably safe, accurate or secure.

It may be easy to find fault with their reasoning, but its hard to criticize the outcome.

Re:A good outcome no matter the reason (1)

Rei (128717) | about three weeks ago | (#47337009)

Given the state of today's technology, no form of electronic banking can be considered reasonably safe, accurate or secure.

So should banks all shut down their online banking services?

Re:A good outcome no matter the reason (0)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47337631)

> So should banks all shut down their online banking services?

No, but they can (and often do) take losses themselves.
They can (and do) also add extensive monitoring systems, which involves a lot of tracking and analysis of each individual and aggregate money flow. I kind of hope you're not suggesting we apply the same data-mining including personal data on votes.
It's also unlikely that large-scale fraud goes undetected for years, for obvious reasons.
Or in short: banking systems are absolutely trivial to secure in comparison. And still there is regular fraud.

Re:A good outcome no matter the reason (1)

Rei (128717) | about three weeks ago | (#47338763)

No, but they can (and often do) take losses themselves.

If you can prove it wasn't you who did the transaction. If you can't, it's your loss.

Yet people use it. Clearly people consider the risk acceptable. So why isn't it acceptable for choosing a school board commissioner?

They can (and do) also add extensive monitoring systems, which involves a lot of tracking and analysis of each individual and aggregate money flow.

They track who spends what for what goods/from what retailer. A voter registrar needs to know, in order to count the vote, who votes and for whom. So the key difference on collected data is....?

It's also unlikely that large-scale fraud goes undetected for years, for obvious reasons.

You've clearly never looked at the auditing methods used by actual e-voting systems. They're generally way, way more transparent and provable than paper voting systems.

The simple fact is, bank accounts do get hacked, and people do lose money that they don't get back. Yet people are perfectly fine with that in exchange for the convenience they get. Even though they're dealing with their life's savings. So why not the school board commissioner too?

Make Voting HARDER not Easier... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about three weeks ago | (#47337375)

Obviously, politicians want to make voting easier so that more people vote carelessly or without thinking ahead. "He promised me free better healthcare with more doctors and less cost without creating a government run bureaucratic nightmare while maintaining all the things of our current system with no transitional pain. So I best get online and vote." Politicians want people who are too busy to go vote or too dumb to vote informed at all. I don't have 3-4 hours every 5-10 years to go get a government issued photo identification or maybe I can't bother to plan ahead enough to get that done ahead of an election, but let me vote anyway, I just heard the election was today. But don't worry when I vote I do so because I have researched the issues and politicians thoroughly. Oh, wait these types of voter tend to elect people who are awaiting trail in jail but who win because they where first place on the ticket.

No what we should want are people who take the time to research what and who they are voting for and who have enough conviction in their beliefs to overcome little hardships like waiting in lines and getting a reasonable distance to a polling place if they are able bodied. Also, they need to be able to follow basic directions like remove hanging chads, filling out circles, etc. Why because if they can't or don't want to put the effort in how can we trust they could evaluate the issues and people in the election. If we made it even harder to vote we would probably see the end of both the reps and dems at least in their current form. and probably several third parts springing up. While I love some of the idea of having basic competence testing for voters, I wouldn't trust our current or future politicians with that power.

IN closing "If you can't do basics simple grade school tasks, you probably can't be trusted to govern yourself."

Government != Customer Service (1)

ssufficool (1836898) | about three weeks ago | (#47338843)

This is the biggest hurdle local and state governments need to overcome. If you have to spend marginally more to give better customer service, DO IT! In the long run, the process will be refined, run cheaper and better and more people will migrate to the service. It's all in the marketing, which they failed to do. I work in the elections business and voting by mail used to be a controversial subject. A little marketing, education and refinement and 5 years later over 30% of the voters in our jurisdiction use it. Electronic kiosk voting, well that's another matter. Given a publicly available, transparent, open sourced internet voting system, the right marketing and deployment strategy would make it a viable replacement for mail ballots. Given a network connected polling place, you would have a comprehensive solution to replace the broken electronic voting machine model. Some one has to stick their foot in the turd and start the process. It must be open, it must be transparent and it must be free. The public has to own the voting technology, there is no other verifiable way.
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