The complexity of e-voting

It’€™s well known that I’€™m opposed to the introduction of e-voting and e-counting in the UK. This is fundamentally because the technology of today cannot deliver on the unique requirements of democratic elections. Elections require secrecy, accuracy, anonyminity and verifiability. This is an incredibly difficult combination of requirements to meet. Banks or online shops don’€™t meet all the requirements – while others may not know what you bought (secrecy) unlike voting your identity is known to the bank or vendor (anonyminity) so that they can deliver their services and check if you are a fraudster. By checking your bank statements you have an element of verifiability not available in voting.

While many very clever people are working hard on a variety of cryptographic solutions to these problem, I think they miss the point. I’m not saying that their work isn’€™t interesting or clever. It€’s just that their proposals are usually very complicated and hard to administer. The result is that they suffer from a lack of transparency as voters and candidates struggle to understand what is going on. Recent demonstrations of promising cryptographic election methods descended into farce when the inventors couldn’€™t administer their mock elections due to the complexity of the procedures.
I just can’t see any pressing, convincing reasons to be spending large sums of money and introducing new levels of risk to our voting systems by making them electronic. There are bigger, more important challanges such as climate change or caring for our aging population.

A hundred years from now there may well be a technology or a theoretical breakthrough which makes it trivial to implement e-voting that conforms to the requirements of secrecy, accuracy, anonyminity and verifiability. I can’€™t see such developments on the horizon, but I can’€™t rule them out. I very much doubt I’€™ll still be here in a century, but I rather do hope we’€™ll have been wise enough to focus our brightest on more pressing issues than just making our votes electronic.

(Cross-posted from Our Kingdom)