Estonia is running online elections, where anyone with a national ID card and Internet Explorer can vote online. As usual, the article forgets to mention the single biggest issue with remote voting, whether online or by mail: voter coercion. The point of supervised voting—i.e. voting in a controlled location, inside a private voting booth—is to ensure that no one can coerce the voter. If you vote by mail or over the Internet, it’s trivial for someone to pay you, or threaten your dog, if you don’t vote according to instructions.
And here’s where it gets really worrisome:
“You trust your money with the internet, and you won’t trust your vote? I don’t think so,” said Tarvi Martens, project manager for the country’s e-voting project.
The project manager said this? Compared voting to banking? That’s scary, because it betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of the voting threat model. In the banking world, you expect the bank to know exactly how much money you have, to maintain extensive audit logs of every minute detail. You keep no secrets from the bank. The central goal in an online banking application is to secure the pipe between you and the bank, and that’s it.
In an election, you expect your vote to be secret, even from the government running the election. In addition, once you’re done voting, you should be both confident that your vote counted correctly, yet unable to convince a potential coercer of how you voted. If banks had this same requirement, they would have to produce statements of your account that convince you, but somehow don’t convince your spouse, and they would have to do this without knowing your account balance.
If voting sounds hard, that’s because it is. Compared to banking, it requires a vastly different setting. To equate the two is a rookie mistake, and it is yet another sign of the erosion of the secret ballot.
(It looks like a few people are talking about “erosion of the secret ballot.” I used the term in my PhD thesis, and Ed Felten is using the same terminology. This is good, it’s an important topic that needs a name.)