LETTER: Security and transparency will be lost with internet voting

I disagree with your editorial advocating internet voting. I think you make a mistake by identifying the problem of low voter turnout as convenience rather than engagement. If someone is engaged enough about the issues, they will make the small effort to visit a polling station. If they aren’t engaged enough to do that, I’m not sure I want them to have a voice in electing my government. As for the Australian example, I think forcing uninformed and disengaged citizens to vote is a greater threat to democracy than low voter turnouts.

Internet voting fails two important tests for the integrity of our voting system – security and transparency.

We’ve seen enough examples over the past few years of how vulnerable the internet is to interference, deception and outright crime. You dismiss the threat of hacking by referring to the Estonian example. As we know, the country was the victim of a vicious Russian cyberattack in 2007 that disabled pretty much the whole internet, including government ministries, political parties and newspapers. An international team of independent experts reviewing their internet voting system reported in 2014: “What we found alarmed us. There were staggering gaps in procedural and operational security, and the architecture of the system leaves it open to cyberattacks from foreign powers, such as Russia…We have confirmed these attacks in our lab – they are real threats. We urgently recommend that Estonia discontinue use of the system.”And, yes, I don’t think Russians are interested in our local and provincial elections, but others closer to home could be. Parties, candidates and fringe elements have their own motivations for manipulating the system, as do cybernerds who do it just for the challenge.

Election transparency is defined as the public ability to verify each essential step in the electoral process. Voting in person with paper ballots may look primitive but it allows election officials to verify who is actually voting. Scrutineers representing the candidates observe the entire voting and counting processes at the polling station and are entitled to challenge anything that may appear improper. The more that electronic systems are involved in the voting process, the less transparent it becomes. It’s a remarkable testament to the professionalism of the election officials and scrutineers that all the results of our elections with paper ballots are usually known within a couple of hours, with absolute transparency.

I think our efforts would be better directed to finding ways to motivate and inform voters, something I think the internet is well suited for.

Bob Crane

Victoria

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