Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Internet Voting in Canada Today

Internet voting is currently offered as an option in municipal elections in the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Nova Scotia.*

In 2003, 12 cities in Ontario offered an Internet voting option. That grew to 20 in 2006, and doubled to 44 in 2010. Then the number leapt to 97 cities in Ontario in 2014.^

In 2008, 4 cities in Nova Scotia offered an online voting option. That increased to 16 cities in 2012, and then 20 cities in 2016.

In 2014, 59 cities went entirely paperless, offering just online voting or a combination of Internet and telephone voting.

Public Opinion
Recently, Canadian political scientist Nicole Goodman and professor of communications, Heather Pyman, released a study of public opinion about online voting in Ontario.  They surveyed voters, candidates, and election administrators in 47 of the 97 cities that offered Internet voting in the October 2014 municipal elections in that province.  While over 200,000 people were involved in the process, 33,090 participated in the survey for a response rate of about 17%.

Ninety-five percent of respondents report being satisfied with the online voting process. Eighty percent were ‘very satisfied,’ suggesting a degree of enthusiasm for the Internet voting option. (p16)

98% of respondents say they would be likely to vote online in future municipal elections, 93% report being ‘very likely’ to do so.  Similar percentages would be likely/very likely to vote online in state or federal elections. (p18)

Convenience was the biggest benefit voters cited. In the comment section of the survey, respondents said they appreciated not having to wait in lines, being able to vote without losing time from work, or vote while at work, or while being out of town, and not having to deal with polling place clerks.  Some felt that online voting provided more privacy than voting on paper in a polling place. (p17) 88% cast their ballots from home, and 7% from work. (p20) The majority of online voters used their PC rather than other connected devices. (p21)

Over 95 percent say they would recommend Internet voting, with less than 5 percent saying they would ‘definitely’ or ‘probably’ not do so. (p18) (Some of the latter respondents felt frustrated by the security steps required to vote online, which are mentioned below.)

14 percent of online voters indicated they either ‘definitely’ or ‘probably’ would not have cast a ballot had it not been for Internet voting. (p25)

While one might expect younger voters to vote online more than older voters, the actual figures are the exact opposite. Only 4 percent of online voters are aged 18 to 24 years, 8% are 25 to 34, and 14 percent are 35 to 44.  Seventy-four percent of the online voters are 45 years old or older.  

65% of Internet voter respondents report being over the age of 50. Thus, the most likely to vote online are those over 50. (p28) Because young people generally vote less, they are less likely to be users of Internet voting. (p29)

Education and Gender
Fifty-seven percent of the online voters report having at least some college education; with 55% female, and 45% male. (p29)

Security Ambiguity
No evidence has been offered of any votes or vote totals having been changed by hackers in any Canadian public election.  Security precautions have been successful.  Methods of voter authentication vary. Some only require a secret PIN.  Others call for a secret PIN, birth date, email confirmation, and a security question, which some voters found to be complicated.

37% of those voters who chose not to vote online cited security concerns.  But 32% of non-online voters reported having no concerns about the security of the technology. (p35)

54% of all respondents said they believe voting by mail is less safe than by Internet, but 28 percent feel mailing in ballots is safer, and 18 percent were not sure. (p35)

Sixty-nine percent of candidates report being satisfied with the Internet voting process.  47% say they were ‘very satisfied.'  73% of candidates were satisfied with the security of the election. (p46)

Nearly 80% of candidates feel positive about having an Internet voting option.  But sixty percent of respondents say they are ‘completely against’ having Internet voting as the only option, 21 percent say they are mostly against that. (p51)

In general, election administrators report that their municipality chose Internet voting to make voting more accessible and convenient for voters. (p57)  But it was also more convenient for them, especially as to the speed and accuracy of the vote count. (p55) Thirty-one percent of administrators thought costs had decreased due to the adoption of online voting, 18% thought they had increased, and 14 percent believed they stayed the same. (p58)

The vast majority had confidence in the security of their Internet voting technology. (p61) As to turnout, early voting increased when online voting was offered as an option, but overall turnout only increased slightly. (The authors suggest that the general increase was around 3.5%, p65, note 15)  

Ninety-six percent of administrators were ‘very’ or ‘fairly’ satisfied with the process, and none say they were ‘not at all’ satisfied with the process. (p53)  Over 90% of administrators said they would recommend Internet voting in future municipal, provincial, and federal elections.  81% of administrators said they would ‘definitely’ recommend Internet voting for their 2018 municipal election. (p60)

This study showcases a group of voters, candidates, and administrators with amazing courage and pioneering spirit compared to their southern neighbors. Ontario Canadians are a model for their counter parts in the USA.  Why Internet voting would advance democracy in the US political system, and why that progress is being obstructed, is discussed in several earlier posts on this blog, such as here, here, and here.

William J. Kelleher, Ph.D.
Author of Internet Voting Now! Here's How. Here's Why - So You Can Kiss Citizens United Goodbye!

*Thanks to Canadian political scientist Nicole Goodman and to Prof. Heather Pyman for producing the study from which the above information is taken. The study can be accessed at The Centre for e-Democracy  (free, safe download)

^Stats from ibid, pages 10f

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Great American Spirit and Internet Voting

Election Attitude
John Patrick, Ph.D.

A Book Review

When asked about the possibilities for having Internet voting in the USA, Vint Cerf, one of the Founding Fathers of the Internet, declared to Dr. Patrick, “We can do this!”

Having an Election Attitude means believing that an election system should serve the needs of the people, our brothers and sisters, who use it.  This book applies the attitude of caring about people to an examination of the election system in the USA today. If you care about people, especially the American people, then you will be quite upset by an election system that forces voters to waste their time trekking to a distant polling place, taking buses, or fighting traffic and finding parking, only to have to wait in lines, which are sometimes very long, and where equipment problems lurk.

Even those who vote by mail can never be sure their ballots will be timely delivered by the USPS. Besides inconvenience and delivery concerns, there are other worries. Were all the millions of pieces of paper from both Post Office and polling place, that folks voted on, counted correctly, or counted at all?

As Mr. Cerf understands, if we can shop and bank online, then we CAN vote online.  Se si puede, as President Obama has often affirmed. Isn’t that The American Spirit?

This book shows how voting online can be made reality in American elections. Dr. Patrick has a Ph.D. in systems management. He was the VP of Internet Technology at IBM, with 35 years of experience in the field. He has written extensively about applying a pro-people attitude to the reform of systems. One example is his book on the US health care system (in which he criticizes, among other things, Obamacare).

Efficiency, reliability, and ease of use are some of the human needs that systems ought to satisfy. Amazon is an example of how this has been done. Consider the process of driving to a bookstore, traffic, parking, then scanning shelves for your title, then paying at the register, if the store has your book in stock. Compare that to tapping a few keys on your Smartphone, and having your book, or other item, delivered to your door. Amazon understands, respects, and satisfies human needs.

Dr. Patrick puts his expert knowledge to work to show his readers how our cumbersome antiquated 19th century voting system can be transformed into a 21st century secure and easy to use online process. This would not be done all at once, of course, but state by state and district by district, as the people demand it from their officials. Aware that the US Constitution gives authority over election administration to the states, and the states allocate that authority to their numerous local voting jurisdictions, Dr. Patrick envisions Internet voting systems emerging in every jurisdiction, offering online voting to their voters, but NOT connected to one another. Having hundreds of small, local systems, like the ones used in Norway or Estonia, would make hacking a national election on a national level impossible.  

We can vote on our PC, cell phone, or tablet, from anywhere, even out of the country, and any time during the election period. Blockchain technology is one of the examples Dr. Patrick explains as a way of making the devices voters use secure against spies and viruses. He has made a believer of me!

So, what’s the hold up? Here is where Dr. Patrick really does a service for his country. He exposes, and clearly shows, that for over a dozen years a small, well organized, well-funded group of anti-Internet voting pro-paper extremists have cleverly manipulated public opinion and forcefully intimidated federal, state, and local authorities so as to block even tiny trials of online voting. They use scary stories of what MIGHT or COULD happen with online voting. They cry, the Russian government, or a US teenager in his suburban bedroom, might or could control an election for the US President. (Maybe a hacker in Iran could elect an Ayatollah for US President!)

My, oh my! I guess we’d better not go that route. But wait! Dr. Patrick shows by historical fact that other countries have been using Internet voting for years, and NO election results have ever been shown to have been altered in any way by hackers.  Not one vote stolen or modified. (In 2014, 97 cities in Canada offered an Internet voting option. All with great success.)

One reason why online voting can be so secure is that its servers are only online for a short time – the election period. Business systems are more vulnerable because they are online 24/7/365. Hackers have time to probe for weak spots, or fool employees with trick emails that look innocent but have a link that, when clicked on, lets in the hackers. Online voting server software can have security programs that keep out spies and viruses. Security is doable.

But the well-funded extremists use the Absolute standard of Perfectly Safe Voting Systems. This is the kind of standard that would make any reasonable person afraid to get out of bed in the morning. Thus, they find all sorts of possibilities that MIGHT or COULD (but never have) go wrong.

So an Election Attitude also entails having the courage to go ahead with a Plan for Progress despite the hysteria created by the few well-funded nay-sayers. Dr. Patrick discusses several instances in which Chicken Little “experts” declared “it can’t be done!”  But stalwart pioneers persevered, and did it. One example is West Virginia Secretary of State, Natalie Tennant. She ran an online voting trial for her state’s overseas military. It went without a hitch. The voters loved it.

Besides electing officials to office, there are other benefits for those with the courage to Cyber the Vote. Imagine a weekly e-townhall meeting in every Congressional District. Constituents could conveniently interact with their representatives – even initiate and vote on proposed legislation to be introduced or voted on in Congress. Indeed, every elected office and public agency in the country could have such e-townhalls.

Presidential elections can be re-organized around Internet voting.  Imagine watching a series of debates online or on TV, and then Rank Choice Voting online; that is, rating each candidate, say 1-3, rather than one vote for one person. The least appealing candidate could be eliminated in the series until only two are left. A couple more debates and the final vote online. (I have written about this in detail.*)

Dr. Patrick mentions several possibilities he sees for the e-reform of our government – some are very interesting, some are kind of silly (like Chaum’s idea of government by polling people); some he didn’t see, but which are mentioned here.

In short, this little book shows how it can be done.  The primary obstacle is Not Technology, but the FEAR of Technology; a fear fueled by a small group of well-funded professional propagandists.  While Dr. Patrick believes that every objection deserves consideration before proceeding, sheer scary stories based on fantasy standards of perfection should not be allowed to cower a nation.  As FDR famously proclaimed, “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Having an Election Attitude means having the pioneer’s courage to boldly move into the future, ready to work to realize our nation’s full potential for Democracy.

William J. Kelleher, Ph.D.
(On Kindle or in paper)

*For a detailed online presidential election organization plan, which would sharply sideline the power of Big Money, go here, and here.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Internet Voting and Democracy FREE E-Book!


Internet voting is coming to the US. There is no way to stop it. But, we as a nation can go with the flow, and direct the new technology in ways that will democratize our election practices. With Internet voting rightly organized, we can #GetMoneyOut of US politics - on all levels!

Imagine a series of elimination debates for presidential contestants. Watch the debates online or on TV, and vote online. (For all the details, start here*)

Imagine: every Congressional District having its own E-Townhall, as often as the People demand it. Indeed, we can do this in every government office.

Read or download (safe!) these chapters for FREE:

Internet Voting: The Great Security Scare 

The Original Intentions of the Framers for US Presidential Elections 

Obama's Oligarchy: And Other Deviations from the Original Intentions 

How to Organize the Direct Election of US Presidents in a Way Which Will Restore Reason and Eliminate Costs to the Candidates, Based on Internet Voting

TO READ THESE CHAPTERS click on a title, or go to my SSRN author page, at http://ssrn.com/author=1053589 Then click on a title. When it comes up, click on "download." Each chapter is a searchable pdf file.

All comments welcome!

William Kelleher, Ph.D.

In paper on Amazon at, http://tinyurl.com/IVNow2011

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Misinformation about Security of E-Voting Machines

I'm no advocate for evoting machines in polling places. In fact, I think the trek to polling places is a waste of time, we could be voting online from home or anywhere. But somebody's got to say something!

US “journalists” ought to be ashamed of the totally irresponsible one-sided presentation they are giving the issue of voting machine security.  They are undermining the legitimacy of our nation’s election results. How reckless and careless can they be?!

They should be giving top priority to FACTUAL and responsible stories, not unrealistic scary stories – especially from the agents of the Verified Voting Foundation.

US Courts have heard all the scary testimony, and found each one to be false.

A fully documented account of the Maryland case, Schade v Lamone, is at How NIST has Misled Congress and the American People about Internet Voting Insecurity, http://ssrn.com/author=1053589  (free safe dwnld) The testimony of “expert” witness, Avi Rubin, was disregarded by the court, and the petition for an injunction to stop the use of evoting machines denied.

The New Jersey court in Gusciora v Corzine began its list of findings of fact by stating, “While the AVC is not a perfect voting system and there are serious issues that remain to be addressed, based on the evidence adduced at trial, the court finds the following: 
(1) No AVC has ever been demonstrated to have been hacked, other than in an academic setting, in this State or any other state. 
(2) There has never been a demonstrated incident of an attempted attack or a verified attack of any AVC voting system in the United States since its use began at least as early as 1979.” p159 (italics added) The court dismissed some of “expert” witness Andrew Appel’s claims with words like “purely hypothetical,” “fictional,” and “unrealistic.” See the opinion at http://tinyurl.com/NJEVoteOK

Hey journalists folks, Thanks for the harm you've done to our democracy.

William J. Kelleher, Ph.D. 

Author, Internet Voting Now! 


Consider this:

Media helped to nominate Trump with Preferential Coverage

Media is helping to finance his campaign with more Preferential Coverage

Media is Reinforcing Trump’s Campaign by Promoting Misinformation about Security of
E-voting Machines

The greedy herd stampede towards Mindless Unselfcritical Sensationalism is controlling this US presidential election, and We The People are allowing it

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Internet Voting in Los Angeles Neighborhood Council Elections!

The Los Angeles Department of Neighborhood Empowerment has recently announced the selection of Everyone Counts as the proposed online voting vendor for the 2016 Neighborhood Council elections.  The contract is for 50 elections with online and telephone voting options, for $552,000. A verifiable voter registration service is included.

Online voting has the ability to significantly increase participation in the Neighborhood Council system. Currently, voters who want to participate in Neighborhood Council elections are forced to vote in person on one day in a single location for a period of between 2-6 hours unless the Neighborhood Council offers vote-by-mail, which only 15 Neighborhood Councils do. On average, there were only 264 votes per Neighborhood Council in the 2014 elections when tens of thousands were eligible.

Voters will have the opportunity to vote from their computer, smart phone or telephone land line.

Besides many government elections in 165 countries Everyone Counts has conducted the voting for the Oscars and Emmy’s, which apparently require more security checks than many government elections.  In 2014 alone, Everyone Counts administered 540 primary and general US elections, delivering 5,000 ballot styles to voters across 27,000 precincts for 231 counties.

Once a voter is registered, they will be provided security information to sign-in and cast their vote online. They will only receive the ballot for which they are qualified to vote. Online voters can review their vote prior to submitting. One vote per voter.

Online voting will replace any vote-by-mail options that Neighborhood Councils may have.

If the contract is approved this March, after public discussion, it still must go to the Mayor’s Office and the CAO for final sign-off. Check the www.EmpowerLA.org calendar for more information.

William J. Kelleher, Ph.D.
Author: Internet Voting Now!
(on paper or in Kindle)

Saturday, August 23, 2014

How Political Scientists Can Test Internet Voting Security

A public policy debate is brewing in the United States concerning whether or not our election technology should include Internet voting. While there are many dimensions to this debate, generally people are asking “if I can bank online and shop online, why can’t I vote online?”

Also, the inconvenience of our 19th Century practice of trekking to polling places to cast a vote is being questioned across the nation. After news reports about long waits in line at poling places during the 2012 election, President Obama said “we’ve got to fix that.”

To study the problem, in March, 2013, President Obama issued an Executive Order convening his Presidential Commission on ElectionAdministration.  The Commission was chaired by two Washington lawyers – Robert F. Bauer, a Democrat, and Benjamin L. Ginsberg, a Republican.

I submitted my research paper on Internet voting, and other comments, to the Commission in favor of encouraging states and local jurisdictions to implement online voting trials, especially for overseas military.

The Commission released its Report on election administration in January, 2014. The Report made some recommendations for trying to make polling place voting more efficient and convenient. It also praised the move by several states to implement online voter registration. More than 25 states now have online voter registration.  While recognizing the convenience and efficiency of registering to vote via the Internet, the Commission stated, without evidence or further comment, that “the internet is not yet secure enough for voting” (p 60).

What I find so interesting, even amazing, is that not only does a Presidential Commission on Election Administration simply assume, with no scientific evidence, that the Internet is too insecure for voting, but so do nearly all the key participants in this important public policy problem.  I also find it amazing, and regrettable, that the political science profession in the US is so quiet on the issue of Internet voting security.  Other than my paper, now being presented to the American Political Science Association, I know of no other studies testing the hypothesis of Internet voting insecurity.

Hypothesis Testing
The well known philosopher of science, Karl Popper, has argued that an essential function of any science is that of conjecture and refutation.  Since voting and elections are central to the domain of the political science profession, shouldn’t political scientists be engaged in the effort at least to test, if not refute, the hypothesis of Internet voting insecurity?

It appears to me that out of an excess of deference for computer scientists, political scientists are not using their expertise and methods to make any sort of contribution to this very consequential public policy debate.

Therefore, one of the primary aims of my paper is to show political scientists how they can test the widely accepted, but untested, hypothesis that the Internet is too insecure for voting.  I want political scientists to see that they can use their own methods of study – especially case studies – to test the hypothesis of Internet voting insecurity, and do so independently of whatever claims activist computer scientists assert.

I take two well known approaches to testing the hypothesis of Internet voting insecurity. First, I look carefully at the language used by its proponents to assert and to support it. Second, I examine the actual experience of Internet voting trials, as case studies, to see if these facts support or undermine the validity of the hypothesis.

Assertions that Internet voting cannot be done securely are presented in the form of factual statements.  Karl Popper has set the standard for assessing the scientific quality of statements about matters of fact. Statements that purport to be factual, but that cannot be disproven under any circumstances cannot be considered scientific statements, says Popper, but must be consider folk tales or myths. In other words, to be scientific a statement of fact must be falsifiable, that is, capable of disproof. If it can’t be tested, then it can’t be factual.

One example of an unfalsifiable argument is the ancient admonition, “The End is Nigh.”  This supposedly factual claim has never been disproven. Indeed, one discussion of false Armageddon predictions has it that the first warning on record is found on an Assyrian clay tablet from 2800 BC.

Because this fear mongering Armageddon claim is impervious to both logical criticism and empirical disproof, it creates the illusion of Indubitable Truth for its adherents.  By logic, just because the End has not yet occurred, does not mean it will not occur – and soon. Empirically, it is unfalsifiable because with each failure today the prediction can simply be moved to tomorrow.

In the paper, I discuss numerous unfalsifiable claims made by an avant-garde of activist computer scientists in support of their hypothesis of Internet voting insecurity.  I think it important to note that none of the computer scientists in this avant-garde have any experience building Internet voting systems that were actually used in elections for public office. I should also point out that the computer scientists who have set up such systems are confident that security threats can be adequately protected against.

Self-Erasing Bugs
One of the many unfalsifiable claims made against Internet voting is that malicious code can be installed in a computer that tallies votes, and can change the results of an election, and can then erase itself and never be detected.

If this is true, then the integrity of no election that relies on a computer to count the vote can be trusted. Every such election result could be the product of undetected, self-erasing malicious code.

I argue in the paper that very scary stories, such as this, are part of a strategy activist computer scientists have followed to put themselves in charge of election administration in the United States. I argue further that they have succeeded!

In my view, activist computer scientists have executed a coup d'├ętat over the election administration function of government in this country.  Among other things, they have had laws passed in several states requiring what they call a “Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail” for every vote cast.  Having a paper record, they say, is the only way to be sure upon audit that the vote tally matches the votes actually cast, and that the count is not the product of undetected, self-erasing malicious code.

This coup d'├ętat includes the conquest of territory that political scientists have traditionally thought to be a core element of their professional field of study. Since this conquest, it seems that political scientists can say nothing about implementing technological reforms in election administration for fear of attracting the public disapproval of activist computer scientists. Indeed, I show how this actually happened in 2004, when political scientists Thad Hall and Michael Alvarez, who favored Internet voting, were completely overruled by just a few very vocal doom predicting anti-Internet voting computer scientists – who also had a lot of help from the New York Times.

In their defense, political scientists can use the Popperian standard that says unfalsifiable claims are mythical and not scientific.  The charge that an election could have been the result of undetected, self-erasing malicious code does seem to be an unfalsifiable claim, and therefore not scientific.  But this argument, by itself, is not likely to assure a frightened public or the legislators who must answer to that public.

In my view, the only effective way to nullify, or falsify, this scary claim is through the use of case studies of actual Internet voting trials.

Case Studies as Tests
If political scientists produced study after study of elections involving online voting in which there were no doubts about the integrity of the results, then the conclusion may be fairly drawn that the integrity of the results can reasonably be trusted.

Case studies can describe the security measures taken in a given election. Then the study can state the results of interviews of key people, and of polling. Key people would include relevant elections experts, elections officials and administrators, the computer scientists involved, journalists, winning and losing candidates, party leaders and political activists, as well as voters. Opinions may vary, and the reasons for those opinions can be included. If the research shows that in the minds of these folks there is confidence in the legitimacy of the vote, then claims of doubt could be seen as just more baseless cries of “wolf.”

If activist computer scientists continue to dogmatically insist that “you can never know for certain whether a disappearing bug changed the outcome,” they can reasonably be dismissed as myth-makers and fear mongers.  Indeed, I have done some preliminary case studies of Internet voting trials for elections to public office.  These include West Virginia in 2010, and Norway in 2011 and 2013.  Here, only the same few activist computer scientists insisted on such notions as there could have been a disappearing bug at work, but the officials, experts, candidates, and public felt confidence in the results.

In Canada, about 50 different cities have conducted Internet voting trials, all without doubts about the legitimacy of the results --  except for anti-Internet voting activists. Case studies of these elections are being done by Canadian political scientist, Nicole Goodman.

My paper also closely examines a report issued by the Elections Division at NIST. Unfortunately, that report merely repeats all the unfalsifiable claims of the activist computer scientists, without any social scientific case studies, or any other kind of science.

In conclusion, political science has the methodology it needs to undo the coup in US election administration and its own ouster from the public policy debate over election technology reform. Our profession only needs to apply these methods and to assert itself.

William J. Kelleher, Ph.D.
Political Scientist, author, speaker,
CEO for The Internet Voting Research and Education Fund
Twitter: wjkno1

Author of Internet Voting Now! 
Kindle edition: http://tinyurl.com/IntV-Now

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Did Poor PR Kill Internet Voting in Norway?

Norway’s government ministry in charge of Internet voting has announced that future trials of the technology will be discontinued for the time being.  Irresponsible news sources, most prominently the BBC, have had a field day inventing reasons as to why Parliament and the Ministry of Modernization made this decision. Unheard through the din of Chicken Little histrionics, the Ministry has posted a “corrective statement” especially for the BBC on its website.  Also, Norway’s Institute for Social Research (ISR) has evaluated the 2013 experiment.  Here’s what the Norwegians say:

Contrary to the BBC report, turnout was not a factor in Norway’s decision. The Ministry states that “Internet voting was never intended or expected to raise voter turnout. The main goal of the pilots was to increase accessibility for marginal groups, such as disabled or expatriate voters.”

These goals were achieved.  The ISR found that among those overseas Norwegians who were registered in the 12 trial towns, turnout was 9% higher than for those abroad who were not registered in participating municipalities. (p136) And, a whopping 66% of overseas voters who were eligible to do so voted online. (p137)

Back home, the use of Internet voting increased by nearly 10%.  In the 2011 trials, 26% of the votes were cast online; but in 2013 that number went up to 35%. (p135)

Folks who were non-voters in the past may have been drawn to vote by the new technology. “19 percent of the non-voters in 2011 cast their ballots online in 2013,” and among these, younger voters voted online more than other groups. (p136)

The ease of voting online was the major reason given by online voters. This was especially true for “people with special needs.”

With a low regard for veracity, the BBC reported that “the fact that the trials did not boost turnout also led to the experiment ending.” Small wonder why the BBC article would say this. Online voting has recently been suggested by Jenny Watson, the head of Britain’s Electoral Commission, as a way to boost turnout among young people.  The BBC editors oppose online voting, and twisted the truth about Norway to suit their own agenda.

The BBC article is entitled, “E-voting experiments end in Norway amid security fears.”  Norway’s correction: “Quite to the contrary, [an] evaluation report shows very high levels of voter trust in Internet voting – as much as 94% of Internet voters report trust in Internet voting.”  In fact, as to the technology itself, “There have been no significant security concerns raised in the trials.”

The BBC writes that some unnamed “Software experts” had criticisms of the “encryption scheme” used by Norway. But these jibs did not come from any of the real experts who actually built the system. Indeed, the Ministry counters that its system has “received widespread international acclaim for the use of a verifiable cryptographic voting protocol, which allowed third parties to perform robust audits of the count.”

The ISR reports that most “of the internet voters cast their votes in private.”  But many of the online voters take a distinctly casual attitude towards privacy. A significant 27% of online voters “stated that they were not alone in the room when they voted,” and 7% reported that they willingly “let others [see] how they voted.” (p138)

Attitudes towards privacy vary between generations. Younger voters are somewhat less concerned with it than older voters. (p138)

Improper Conduct
Internet voting neither invited nor facilitated cheating. Only about 1% “stated that they experienced any pressure to vote for a specific party. Internet voters were not exposed to more pressure than others.” (p139)

Likewise, only about 1% “stated that others had tried to buy their vote, or that they knew about cases of vote-buying. There are no significant differences between internet voters and other voters in this respect.” (p139)

Coercion and Secrecy
A senior adviser on the Internet voting trials, Christian Bull, says that a closer look at the public opinion studies of voter concerns shows that “The ‘fear factor’ in Norway is all about secrecy of the ballot when ballots are cast outside of the polling stations. It has nothing to do with technology, and would apply equally to postal voting.”*

The Ministry admits on its website that there remains political controversy “over fears that the security mechanism of re-voting was insufficient, and that allowing votes to be cast outside of polling stations would diminish the sanctity of the vote.” By “re-voting,” the Ministry refers to the practice of allowing voters to vote multiple times, prior to Election Day voting, with the last vote cast canceling out all the prior votes. If a voter voted online, and then voted again on paper at the polling station, or vice versa, only the last vote would be counted. This option was meant to discourage coercion, violations of privacy, or buying/selling with online voting.

At least some of the voters in the 12 towns where the trials were conducted understood the re-voting process. Out of a quarter million eligible voters, “528 electronic votes were cancelled due to voters having cast a paper vote and 2281 electronic votes were cancelled because the voter had re-voted electronically.” These are the folks who knew how to use the technology, and trusted in it. In the Ministry, and among election observers, there “is no suspicion that any voters successfully voted both electronically and on paper.” The BBC suggestion that some voters cast two votes, both of which were counted, is just plain wrong.

Unfortunately, polling in the participating towns revealed that less than half the respondents understood the re-voting option. Apparently, those folks, and a great many of the voters outside the trial areas, didn’t understand that this re-voting measure could protect the “sanctity” of the vote, and they retained fears about the possibility of coercion, loss of privacy, and buying/selling of votes

While attitudes towards voting online among the quarter million eligible voters in the trial areas were very positive, Norway has a population of over five million, and it is among these folks that resistance to Internet voting is highest.

Has there been a failure of public education outside the trial areas which has allowed a consensus based on uninformed fear to emerge in the country, and to influence Parliament?

“Due to the lack of broad political will to introduce Internet voting,” writes the Ministry (and under pressure from Parliament), it has “decided not to continue expending public resources on continuing the pilots.”  

Could the problem here be that the system technicians hyper-focused on getting the technology right, but neglected the human dimension; i.e., public relations? If so, then they need to re-focus their efforts if Internet voting is to ever take hold in Norway.

*Personal communication on Linkedin, also the source of the “1%” figure used.

William J. Kelleher, Ph.D.
Political Scientist, author, speaker,
CEO for The Internet Voting Research and Education Fund
Twitter: wjkno1

Author of Internet Voting Now! 
Kindle edition: http://tinyurl.com/IntV-Now